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The Good Ended Happily

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It starts off innocuously enough.

“So. I slept with someone last night.”

Mikey raises a perfectly arched, perfectly judgemental eyebrow and takes a long, slow sip of his black coffee. “Thank you, Frank, for updating me on your once-again active sex life.”

Frank can still feel warm fingers digging sharply into his shoulders, and the bruises blooming all the way from the top of his chest down to his torso press insistently against the soft fabric of his long-sleeved t-shirt. He’s a bit too flustered to rise up to the playful challenge lacing Mikey’s voice as he usually would, and – instead – he just fiddles with some napkins, twisting them with his fingers until their cries for mercy translate into rips and tears.

“Um.” He says, because he’s nothing if not eloquent. “It was Pete. I slept with Pete.”

The reaction is instantaneous, and Frank would be proud of himself for being able to scrounge up such a response from Mikey, but – as it is – he’s mainly terrified and convinced that Mikey is dying, and it’s his fault, and Gerard will kill him dead. Mikey somehow manages to simultaneously choke on his coffee and snort at the same time, causing the dark brown liquid to shoot straight out of his nose in a way that makes Frank squeal in disgust.

“Jesus—Christ,” Mikey manages to splutter out in between an almighty hacking fit, clutching his chest and reaching forward to rip the tattered mess of napkins out of Frank’s hands in order to press them against the lower half of his face.

Frank jumps up and runs around their table. He’s well aware that the other patrons in the coffee shop are openly staring at the messy tableau he and Mikey are making right now, but he’s a bit too concerned about the welfare of Mikey to really care all that much; if Mikey dies, then so will Frank. Gerard isn’t necessarily intimidating – in fact, he’s covered in colourful paints and glitter most of the time, his favourite ice cream flavour is some crap called Super Kid, and he cried really hard (like, really hard) the last time he found a dead bird in his front yard. But Frank will be feeling guilty enough at causing Mikey’s death that he might just actually die when Gerard inevitably looks at his with utter heartbreak and betrayal. No. Mikey must live.

“Don’t die on me!” He yelps, reaching Mikey’s side and frantically patting Mikey’s back and chest with both hands. To his horror, this just causes Mikey’s hacking fit and increase in intensity.

“Frank—fuck. Stop,” Mikey manages to wheeze out, pushing Frank’s hands away from him. Frank is left to nibble frantically on his fingernails, silently bemoaning the fact that he hasn’t had the time or energy or goddamn motivation to write a will yet (what will happen to his Wii U if he dies? What will happen to the ten dollars he has in his bank account if he perishes? What will happen to his goddamn dog if he’s gone?), before Mikey is croaking out a hoarse, “Water. Please.”

“Water! Yes, I can do that!” Frank says, scrambling to the cash register. Everyone just lets him skip to the front of the line because they all probably don’t want to see a dead man in a Starbucks when they just wanted a tall Americano or whatever, and Frank is beyond grateful when an ice cold Venti water is being pushed into his hands within fifteen seconds.

“Here,” he says, thrusting the water at Mikey when he returns to their table. Mikey’s managed to calm down at this point, and his terrifying hacking fit has been reduced to just a few small coughs and some tiny splutterings. His usual pale countenance is completely flushed red though, and the flinty glare he shoots at Frank is flinty enough to give the Flintstones a run for their cavemen currency. He grabs the water, rips off the top-lid and the straw, and just straight up chugs it.

When he’s done with the entire Venti-sized water, he slams the plastic cup onto the table and manages to say, very evenly, “Did you just say that you slept with Pete last night? As in Hobbit-sized Pete with his big teeth, and his loud-ass laugh, and his weird hard-on for Oscar Wilde Pete?”

“I didn’t know that he has a hard-on for Oscar Wilde,” is what Frank manages to dumbly say in response.

“How can you not know that he has a weird thing for Oscar Wilde?” Mikey demands. “He reads a bit of The Importance of Being Earnest every night before he goes to bed.”

“Well he didn’t exactly whip out Wilde’s greatest works last night when we were done, you know?” When Mikey just stares at him with squinty eyes and a furrowed brow, Frank slithers a little lower in his seat. “I’m sorry? Are you angry with me? Are you going to kill me? Because I thought I just jumped over the hurdle that is my inevitable death, and I’ll be sad if I find out that it’s not a one-course deal but a three-course one, you know?”

“I’m not going to kill you, Frank,” Mikey says with an eye-roll. “For one thing, we’re at a Starbucks in the middle of the afternoon. Secondly, if I kill you, Gerard’s guilt-trips will end up killing me. And thirdly, if I kill you, who the hell is going to pay for all the coffee I drink?”

Frank thinks for a second. “Ray?”

“Oh yeah. Okay, I can probably kill you then,” Mikey says with another eye-roll, which seems like a bit of an overkill to Frank, but he’s not going to say that, because right now he’s the one standing on trial for sleeping with Pete Wentz, and the people standing on trial never talk back to Judge Judy unless they want to get smacked in the face with the gavel.

“Please don’t kill me. Let me write my will first at least,” Frank pleads.

“I’m not going to kill you, Frank,” Mikey repeats, rolling his eyes for the third time. Frank absentmindedly wonders if he’s dizzy from it. “You and Pete are both grown men who can come to sensible and consensual decisions. If you guys want to sleep together, then go for it. If you guys want to get married, well hell, I’m not going to stop you.”

“Okay, woah,” Frank says. “Don’t even start, man. It was just a one-time thing. We were both just feeling a little tipsy and flirtatious, and Pete’s apartment was conveniently close by which seemed to seal the deal. That’s—that’s all.”

“You don’t even drink anymore,” Mikey says, voice so dry that Frank almost feels a little bit dehydrated from it. “And Pete’s been doing a cleanse for the past two weeks.”

“Okay, so we were both just living vicariously through other people. We were tipsy from the—the drunkenness of the other people at the party.”

There’s a pause where Mikey just stares Frank down. Mikey’s eyes are so deep and broody all the time; every time he stares intently at Frank, Frank squirms a little bit, and not in the fun way.

“Do you even hear yourself?” Is what Mikey finally settles with.

“Okay, fine! The party was boring and the two of us were horny, so we just went for it! Are you happy now?”

“Thrilled,” Mikey says in the perfect deadpan before taking a careful sip of his coffee. “As long as the two of you know what you’re doing.”  

“It was just a one-time thing, man.”

Mikey just hums and continues sipping his drink.


-x-


“Frank! Frank,” Pete moans out, wet and needy. The man’s seemed to have grown extra hands or something, because his hands seem to be everywhere. Frank nibbles on the soft skin beneath Pete’s earlobe, and Pete uses one hand to yank on Frank’s hair while he uses his other hand to anchor himself to Frank via Frank’s ass. Frank laughs lightly when he feels Pete squeeze one of his ass-cheeks, and continues peppering kisses across the line of Pete’s jawline before he captures the older man’s lips with his own.

The groan Pete releases against his lips causes a reverberation to travel throughout Frank’s body. His fingers and toes seem to tingle with the noise he’s managed to evoke from Pete, and he nibbles on Pete’s lower lip before finally letting go. He goes back to pressing hot and frantic kisses against the column of the other man’s neck while simultaneously attempting to open up both of their pants. Pete’s sweaty hands come to help after a few seconds of fruitless fumbling, and soon both of their pants are clinging to their thighs.

Frank ruts against Pete almost mindlessly before Pete is wrapping a warm hand around the two of them. The movement of his arm is fast and jerky, and the grip he has is tight and almost unbearable in its friction, but it feels so good that Frank can’t even begin to fathom pulling away to find lube or lotion or something to ease the passage. Instead, he just licks a long line from Pete’s collarbone to his chin, and tries not to crumple to the floor when he finally comes. Pete follows suit after a few more strokes, and then the two of them are slumping against the wall, red-faced and short-of-breath.

“Fuck,” Frank says, pressing his forehead against Pete’s shoulder. The fabric of Pete’s hideous neon orange sweater is soft but damp against his cheek, and he nuzzles a bit closer before pulling away. Pete’s eyes are half-lidded when he meets Frank’s gaze, but a playful smile is already stretching across his lips. Frank laughs lightly in response to the other man’s sly look, and shakes his head. “I told Mikey that this was a one-time deal.”

“A two-time deal isn’t that much different from a one-time deal,” Pete says. “We can cap it at two times if you want, though.”

And then, because he’s a massive asshole, he starts licking the cum off of his palm and fingers while maintaining heavy eye contact with Frank. Frank feels his dick perk up and his willpower shrivel away in response, and he groans because he knows himself, and himself is a weak, weak, horny, little man.

“If we get off more than once during the same encounter, is it still a two-time deal? Or does the bar increase every time we come?” Frank asks.

Pete laughs and pulls his hand away from his face. “How much do you plan on coming tonight, Oreo?”

“Until I literally pull my dick off,” Frank says. He doesn’t know how Mikey always manages to maintain such a dry expression, because he can already feel himself giggling before he’s even done speaking. But then again, he’s probably just feeling extra loose-limbed and easygoing from the sex and the adrenaline and the adrenaline that came from the sexy rush and the sexy times caused by the rush of adrenaline. He shakes his head a little to try to clear his mind of its jumbled, garbled thoughts, and leans in to mouth wetly at the gentle slope where Pete’s neck tapers off to his shoulders.

“Mmm, you know I have a thing for eunuchs,” Pete says laughingly. He runs his fingers through Frank’s hair, and makes a noise of protest when Frank pulls away.

“You have a thing for eunuchs?”

No,” Pete whines, reaching out and tugging at Frank’s ears for some weird, bizarre reason. “I don’t know. I’ve never met a eunuch before.”

“I don’t think you need to have a face-to-face encounter with something to like it,” Frank says. And then, because he’s an actual moron, he asks, “How do you think people discover their weird fetishes?”

Pete stares at him, and then – evidently – decides to just roll with the punches. “Weird how? Like ‘mmm, let me suckle on your toes, Frankie’ kind of weird? Or weirder?”

Frank pauses and tries to imagine Pete suckling on his toes like he’s a baby calf and Frank’s toes are multiple cow teats, before announcing very seriously, “I think we can absolutely rule out foot fetish for me.”

Pete laughs because Frank’s face is probably scrunched up in the way it gets when he’s disgusted, but he’s too busy trying to shake off the image of hybrid cow-teat-toes from his head to pay it much mind.

“But what if talking about suckling on your toes unlocked something primal in me?” Pete asks with raised eyebrows. Frank splutters on a laugh and pulls away in mock-disgust.

“Ugh! I think we’re going to have to keep this to a two-time deal then. And I’m counting it based on how many times we’ve come.”

“Wow. One mismatched kink and you run for the hills? That’s cold, Oreo.”

“I don’t want to wake up to find my toes in your mouth, man!” Frank says laughingly. He playfully pushes Pete further against the wall, and Pete just giggles, grabbing onto Frank’s arm with two hands and pulling him along as he slumps over. The two of them end up pressed close against the wall with Frank’s hands bracketing Pete’s head and Pete’s arms wrapped securely around Frank’s waist.

“What if I promise to only suck on your dick and your fingers?” Pete asks, brushing his lips against Frank’s. Frank hums and leans in closer, licking his way into Pete’s mouth. Pete allows the intrusion, making little pleased noises as Frank gives himself a self-guided tour of the inside of his mouth. After a few minutes of this, Frank pulls away with a wet smack.

“I guess I’ll stay then.”

“Mmm, and what if I promise to suck your dick right now, hmm?”

“I’d let you,” Frank says, before adding in a low voice, “But only if you’ll let me return the favour.”

Pete licks his lips and then ducks out from under Frank’s arm in one quick, neon orange blur. He grabs one of Frank’s hands with his own and then begins tugging him into his bedroom.

Frank knows that the two of them probably look really stupid right now, waddling like two foolish oafs because their pants are around their thighs and their ram-rod hard-ons frankly make it difficult to move like a respectable human being, but he’s so turned on right now that Pete can probably sport clown makeup and he’d still get off.

Oh, he thinks, bouncing on the bed once before Pete is scrambling over and straddling his thighs. Maybe fetishes are just really tragic Pavlovian responses gone wrong.


-x-


The first thing Frank sees when he blinks his eyes open is a well-loved, dog-eared copy of The Importance of Being Earnest sitting on the bedside table half-a-bed across from him. He stares at the looping, golden script for a moment, languid and well-fucked and stiff in all the right places. The spot beside him is cool to the touch, and – in the early daylight, free from the sex-crazed haze that had half-blinded him last night – he notices that Pete’s comforter is Kirby-based.

“Jesus Christ,” he mutters to himself, poking a finger against Kirby’s black-blue, oval eye. The ripple makes it seem as if the resident Nintendo pink vacuum ball is winking at him, and it takes Frank a few seconds to come to terms with the fact that they had actually fucked on Kirby’s face. Fucking twice.

At least leaving the bed is easier now. Frank groans, rolling away from the comforts of the Kirby-themed sheets, and pulls on his boxers and jeans which are lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. He finds his white undershirt hanging from the doorknob, his Star Wars t-shirt wedged beneath the bed, and his red-and-black flannel stuffed behind the headboard for some reason. Finally, fully dressed in all his layers, Frank opens the door and ambles out into the living room.

Pete’s head immediately pokes out from around the kitchen corner.

“Hey Oreo,” he says with a bright, toothy grin. His bleached-blonde hair is sticking up in every direction imaginable, and a hideously red hickey is blossoming right on the edge of his stubbly jaw. Frank kind of wants to fuck him again. Maybe they can make this a four-time deal.

“How’d you sleep?” Pete asks, and Frank does his best to beat his stirring dick into submission.

“Good,” he answers, before demanding, “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me we were fucking on Kirby’s face?”

“Yeah, I kind of forgot,” Pete answers with a laugh. “Honestly, you should count yourself lucky that we didn’t end up fucking on my Wario covers.”

Frank pauses. “Why?”

“Did you want to fuck on Wario’s face?”

“No!” Frank laughs and makes his way towards the kitchen. Pete grins in response and pours Frank a cup of coffee before pushing the filled mug, packets of Starbucks granulated sugar that he no doubt stole from Starbucks, and a carton of cream towards him. “I meant why do you even have Wario covers? Also I can’t have cream.”

“Oh shit. Right, you’re a vegan. Wait,” Pete says before heading towards his fridge. He rummages inside for a moment before emerging with a triumphant “A-ha!” and a carton of almond milk in his hands. He flips it over and checks the date before presenting it to Frank with a flourish. “Almond milk! And there’s still a week before it goes bad.”

“Thanks, dude,” Frank says with a smile. He pours the appropriate amount of almond milk into his coffee before looking up at Pete. “So, the Wario covers? Do you have a kink we need to discuss?”  

“I’m actually more into Waluigi than Wario if we’re being completely honest here,” Pete says coyly before breaking down into giddy laughter. Frank cradles the warm Red Hood mug in his hands and watches him double over with a smirk on his face. “Nah, man. Joe’s just made a habit of buying me ridiculous covers and blankets for my Christmas and birthday gifts. I don’t even know how it started.”

“Are you telling me you have more monstrosities than just a Kirby comforter on your bed and Wario covers hiding in your linen closet?”

“I don’t have a linen closet, but yeah,” Pete says with a shrug.

“You don’t have a linen closet?” Frank asks. Pete shrugs again, but his eyes are twinkling in the morning light, so Frank takes it as permission to playfully demand, “Where the fuck do you keep your towels then?”

“I just stuff them in the cabinet under the sink in my bathroom,” Pete says, before adding, “Along with my bedsheets and pillowcases and whatever else.”

“What the hell, man?” Frank asks, only semi-seriously. “What do you keep in the closet in the hallway then?”

Pete bites his lower lip and looks at Frank from underneath his dark eyelashes. Frank feels his dick stirring up again – the horny little fucker – and does his best to think about Wario and Waluigi, naked Wario and Waluigi. Writhing against each other in all their naked glory. Oh dear fucking God.

“Do you really want to know?” Pete asks, saving him from that terrible rabbit-hole. Frank grins at the question.

“Is it your vibrator collection?”

“Fuck, how did you know?” Pete laughs. He flicks a packet of sugar at Frank, who squawks appropriately and lets it hit him square on the chin. He plays along, pouting and rubbing at his chin while Pete giggles in response. “Nah man. My vibrator collection is in a cardboard box stuffed under my bed, the place where most sensible adults hide their sex toys.”

Frank shrugs and nods along. “Yeah, you’re not wrong.”

“I know I’m not,” Pete says. He pushes his half-empty, X-Files mug of herbal tea away from himself, and walks around the counter to where Frank is leaning over the granite. Frank pushes up just as Pete reaches him and loops his arms around his neck. He has to immediately start picturing Wario and Waluigi doing the horizontal tango again.

“Okay, if I tell you what’s in my hallway closet, you have to promise not to laugh,” Pete says with a serious mouth but dancing eyes. “Only Patrick and Andy know; Patrick because he’s my soulmate, my bosom-buddy if you will, and Andy because he needed a towel and opened the closet door by accident.”

“Are you going to show me a bunch of decapitated heads?” Frank asks, placing his hands on Pete’s hips.

Pete’s lips twitch up in response, but he quickly schools his features back into a very somber expression. “No, it’s much worse than that.”

“Fuck, it’s going to be a closet full of decapitated penises.” That startles a laugh out of Pete, and – as he’s still releasing the loud, rhythmic, choppy sounds of delight – Frank continues. “You weren’t actually joking about the eunuchs, but your obsession actually runs deeper than just a strange, possibly-offensive fetishization of an entire group of people. No, your love for eunuchs runs so deep that you are driven by a mad impulse to create more of them, by force if necessary. And, as if that’s not sick enough, you also keep the decapitated penises of your victims as a prize and a reminder of how many eunuchs you’ve unleashed into the world.”

“Mmhmm,” Pete hums. He’s not even trying to keep a serious face anymore; instead, he’s openly grinning down at Frank. “All those penises in my closet actually kind of make the vibrators under my bed a bit redundant.”

Dude,” Frank groans in disgust, throwing his head back at the thought of Pete fucking himself with an actual decapitated penis and not just a very realistic sex-toy. “Okay, yeah. We probably just crossed the line of no-return.”

“You were the one who brought it up!” Pete laughs. Frank bites his tongue in disgust, scrunching up his nose to emphasize his point. Pete’s eyes flicker down to where his tongue is peeking out between pearly white teeth and slightly chapped lips before he leans in and presses a kiss against Frank’s mouth. It’s a fairly chaste kiss, all things considered, and Frank can’t help giving a light, kitten-lick against the seam of Pete’s smiling lips when he pulls away.

“You can’t laugh, okay?”

“I promise,” Frank swears as seriously as one can on an early Sunday morning after having discussed sexed-up Nintendo characters and decapitated penises.

Pete shoots him another smile – this one is softer around the edges though – before he reaches down to clasp one of Frank’s hands in his own and drags him down to hall towards where the should-be linen closet is standing.

“Okay,” he says, looking back and smiling impishly at Frank, before he reaches out and opens the closet door. Frank imagined many things, some ranging from the very possible – stash of porn? A shrine dedicated to all of Pete’s ex-lovers? – to the straight up impossible – there’s no way Bruce Willis would be in there (probably), but a man can dream – but what meets his eyes is somehow stranger yet also purer than anything he could have possibly pictured.

“Snow globes,” he says slowly. Pete twists around to face him, and – if Frank didn’t know any better – he would think that Pete is feeling a little flustered. As it is, he just raises an eyebrow at Pete who shrugs a little.

“Still weirder than decapitated penises, huh?”

“Just a bit.” Frank walks closer and reaches his hand out before quickly pulling it back. He turns to look at Pete who’s still watching him beneath his eyelashes, and asks, “Can I touch them?”

“Yeah, man,” Pete says, reaching forward and plucking out one of the snow globes himself. “This one’s my favourite,” he says, before passing it over to Frank.

There are four figures standing in the snow globe, all of them sporting wide smiles and ridiculous Christmas-themed sweaters with their arms thrown around each other. Their faces are all a little misshapen and lumpy, but it’s clear that the four of them are supposed to be Pete, Patrick, Joe, and Andy.

“Oh my god,” Frank says with a delighted laugh. He shakes the snow globe and watches as white fluff starts swirling around in the glass ball. “This is fucking adorable.”

“Yeah,” Pete says, reaching out and taking the snow globe back. Frank watches the way he carefully cradles the thing in his hands, the way he cups the rounded form protectively with his fingers. “Andy got it for me for Christmas, like, five years ago. See? Patrick still has his sideburns.”

Frank peers down at the figure that Pete is pointing out. There’s definitely something growing out of the sides of Snow Globe Patrick’s face, but Frank can’t be completely sure that they are sideburns.

“They kind of look like big Bull Horn Beetles leeching and sucking on the sides of his face.”

“Right?” Pete asks laughingly. “It’s the best.”

“It is,” Frank agrees, peering back into the closet. “Oh shit, man! You have one of Nakatomi Plaza!”

Pete carefully places his favourite snow globe back into the closet shelf before pulling the one of Nakatomi Plaza out. Bruce Willis is even climbing the side of the building, goddamn.

“Here,” he says, pushing the snow globe towards Frank who stares down at it in glee before shaking it, watching the glittery white snow swirl and dance. “Mikey told me that your favourite movie is Die Hard.”

“It is the best movie out there.”

“Well…debatable.”

“Oh, don’t even start,” Frank laughs, pushing Pete with the side of his shoulder and giggling even harder when Pete yelps and has to catch himself on the doorframe to keep from crumbling to the ground. “I’m not the one with a Die Hard snow globe hiding in my closet.”

They spend a few minutes standing there as Pete shows Frank the entirety of his snow globe collection like he’s Queen Victoria presiding over the Golden Jubilee and the snow globes are Westminster Abbey or something. His collection ranges from absolutely delightful – “God, The Fox and the Hound made me bawl like a little baby when I first watched it, man” – to the downright horrifying – “Is this supposed to be It? Why the fuck would you have an It snow globe hiding in your closet? This seems like you’re setting yourself up to get taken and eaten in your own home by a psychotic clown” – and the two of them spend most of it giggling and ribbing each other like two schoolboys.

“Hey, do you want to stay and have breakfast?” Pete asks after a while. Frank looks at him, but the older man is carefully shifting his snow globes around, standing on his tip-toes in order to reach the ones on the highest shelf.

“Breakfast?” Frank repeats, because it’s never too early in the morning to sound moronic.

“Yeah,” Pete says, lowering himself before turning around to face Frank with a tiny quirk of his lips. “I mean, I’m actually doing a cleanse right now, so I’ll just be having broth. But I can make a mean vegan pancake. I’m pretty sure Andy would actually kill for them. Joe probably would too, but that’s just Joe.”

Pete’s looking at him from under his lashes again, and Frank thinks there’s something like hope swimming in his brown eyes, or maybe it’s just Pete’s usual brand of open friendliness. A part of him wants to sit down on one of Pete’s mismatched kitchen chairs and happily accept a plateful of vegan pancakes, but a larger part of him is unbearably attuned to the fact that his body feels slightly grimy from sweat, and that his three layers of clothing all smell like varying degrees of Gerard-esque funk and musk. And there can only be one Gerard in the world; two is way too much musk to release into the world. Honestly, one Gerard is debatable too in terms of smell alone.

“Maybe next time,” Frank says, softening the rejection with a quirk of his lips. “I have to get home and feed my dog. She’s probably missing me and driving my neighbours nuts with her howling.”

“I didn’t know you have a dog,” Pete says, before shaking his head with a small self-deprecating laugh. “Probably should have figured it out though.”

“Probably,” Frank says, stuffing his hands into the jean pockets. The two of them stand there for a moment, staring at each other, and Frank has no idea what Pete is thinking, but his own mind is working into overdrive: How do one night stands work again? How do they work if you slept with a friend? Is Pete a friend? He’s probably more of a friendly acquaintance than anything else, but in that case how does one deal with the fact that they’ve slept with a friendly acquaintance? More than anything else though, Frank is aware of the fact that he’d really like to fuck Pete again, maybe right here on the hallway floor with the snow globes staring down at them from the open closet door. This is how weird kinks begin.

“I’ll walk you to the front door,” Pete says, saving Frank from going too psycho-analytical on his own psyche.

“Okay,” Frank says. He almost expects Pete to reach out and grab his hand with his own before dragging him to the front door, but Pete just walks down the hallway, so Frank shuffles after him.

“Thanks for last night,” Frank says when they reach the front entrance. He’s filled with some mild regret after the words leave his lips because it makes it sound like he and Pete just shared a very nice, very appropriate, clothes-on-the-whole-time mid-Western supper last night in which Pete got the cheque, but Pete just lets out a soft huff of laughter.

“Nah, don’t mention it. We both got something out of it, so,” Pete trails off and peers at Frank through his eyelashes. Frank’s Star Wars t-shirt feels like it’s straggling him a bit. “I’ll see you around, Oreo.”

“Yeah—I’ll—yeah.” There’s a moment of hesitation where Frank debates whether or not he should kiss Pete (and if yes, then where? On the lips? Is that too forward? How about the cheek? Maybe that’s a bit too date-like. Should he kiss Pete’s knuckles like some Victorian hero? Why are there so many possible places to kiss someone?) before ultimately rejecting the idea. Instead, he gives Pete an awkward wave and a little, crooked smile before ducking out of the door.

He’s halfway down the apartment hallway before he hears Pete’s front door click shut.

Dear God. Maybe he should have kissed Pete’s knuckles.


-x-


“Hey, do you ever kiss Christa’s knuckles?” Frank asks from where he’s tucked up into Ray’s side. Ray has an arm around his shoulders because he’s the best, and Frank snuggles deeper into his friend’s hold. He can hear the sounds of Gerard and Mikey bustling around in the kitchen – no doubt destroying the place with their fabled Way Hands of Destruction and their even more fabled Way Feet of Chaos – but he tries to ignore the crashing for the most part.

Ray is evidently on board with his plan of trying to ignore the way Gerard and Mikey are no doubt demolishing the older Way’s kitchen because he just speaks over what sounds like a thousand pots and pans tumbling to the tiled floor.

“Yeah. Sometimes, I guess. Why do you want to know?”

“Okay, that’s cool. But it doesn’t really help me because the two of you are married,” Frank mutters, more to himself than to Ray before perking up. “When was the last time you had a one night stand?”

Ray stares at him very blankly before saying slowly, “Before I got together with Christa, so about seven years ago.”

Shit, man. Has it been that long?” Frank asks, turning to look at Ray who beams in a proud yet slightly abashed manner.

“Married her straight out of college.”

“Nice,” Frank says like he wasn’t present at the event. He gives Ray a congratulatory pat on the chest before immediately rewiring back to the Issue at Hand (literally, this is a Hand Issue). “So do you remember if you’ve ever, like, kissed a one night stand’s knuckles then?”

“Like I’m the Phantom?” Ray asks, totally and utterly befuddled, which is fair, because he and Frank don’t often discuss the merits of laying a wet one right on a one night stand’s knuckles. “From The Phantom of the Opera?”

“I don’t know if the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera makes it a habit of kissing his one night stands on the knuckles,” Frank says. “But if he does, then yes.”

“No, I’ve never kissed a one night stand’s knuckles before,” Ray says. His eyebrows are furrowed in a way which means that he’s thinking long and hard and sifting through his sordid memories of the past, pre-Christa, and Frank can appreciate that amount of dedication Ray is showing to his cause. “I don’t think so at least. Maybe when we were in the middle of the act? Are you talking about kissing a one night stand’s knuckles the morning after or—you know, during sex?”

“I’m just asking, hypothetically, whether or not it’d be weird to say goodbye to a fling by kissing them on—on their hand.”

“I mean, it really depends on the situation, but yeah. I would say that it’s a little weird.” Ray nudges Frank insistently until Frank pulls away from his shoulder with a little grumble before asking, “Did you say goodbye to a fling by laying a wet one on their hand, Frank?”

“No, thank God. You’re right. It would have been totally weird,” Frank says, sinking down into Gerard’s lumpy couch. He tries to imagine what would have happened if he had bowed down with a flourish and kissed Pete’s knuckles. Pete is loud and he can be obnoxious as hell, but he’s also really nice, so he would have probably just laughed it off and they’d be fine. But also, the mortification of acting like some Charlotte Brontë-esque hero while wearing a Star Wars t-shirt and smelling of dried sweat and hours-old sex would have followed Frank forever, haunting him alongside the memories of puking in eighth grade debate class and laughing so hard during semi-formal that he whizzed a little in his way-too-big slacks. No. It’s better that common sense kicked in right then like the absentee parent it is in Frank’s life. Here comes common sense, right on time for his annual visit and bearing a cactus to show that he hasn’t totally abandoned Frank yet.

“What are you guys talking about?” Mikey asks, coming out of the kitchen with a plate of Celebration cookies in his hands.

“What the hell are you and Gerard doing in there?” Ray asks as Mikey places the plate of seven cookies down onto the rickety coffee table before them. Gerard screeches as something that sounds suspiciously like a pterodactyl’s caw echoes from the kitchen; Mikey remains totally unphased as Frank does his best to look unphased and Ray visibly winces at the cacophony.

“We were looking for snacks and drinks,” Mikey answers, plopping down onto the adjacent chaise and making himself comfortable. “What were you guys talking about?”

“Ray was just asking me about what he should get Christa for their anniversary,” Frank says before Ray can open his mouth. Ray shoots him a confused look but obediently keeps his mouth shut when Frank just grins at Mikey.

Mikey squints suspiciously at Frank. Frank does his best to not visibly shiver at Mikey’s stare.

“You’re lying,” Mikey finally says. “Ray and Christa’s anniversary is in August which is more than ten months away."

“You remember when my anniversary is?” Ray asks in a pleased tone of voice just as Frank shoots back, “He wants to get an early head-start.”

“Sure, I can believe that,” Mikey relents before adding, “Except he would never go to you for suggestions. He would go to me because I’m reliable and a great gift-giver, and you’re just a tiny man who gives socks as presents whenever you run out of gift ideas.”

“Well maybe Christa is sick of good gifts,” Frank says, completely aware that he sounds like a local village idiot but in way too deep now to put a stop to it. “Maybe Ray wants to give her garbage this time around. Ever think about that?”

Mikey has this gift of pausing at the perfect moment, for the perfect amount of time, to make someone feel like a total tool. He chooses to use his gifts now and just stares at Frank for a good few seconds. Frank feels hot and cold at the same time.

Finally, Mikey chooses to put Frank out of his misery and asks, very deliberately, “Do you ever think before you speak?”

“Yes. No.” Frank pauses. “I don’t know which answer makes me sound worse.”

Mikey stares at him again, and Frank can feel Ray fidgeting uncomfortably beside him. Well, it’s always good to know that Mikey’s Gaze of Disapproval and Judgement doesn’t just affect him.

“He was asking me about one night stand etiquette,” Ray finally breaks, because he’s always been too smart to ignore Mikey (unlike Frank who Mikey will probably suffocate to death one day).

“I knew it,” Mikey says, perking up in his seat. “I knew it. And you told me it was a one-time deal, you dumbass.”

“It was a one-time deal!” Frank says. The lie feels thick and awkward in his mouth; he’s never really lied to Mikey before – mainly because Mikey is too perceptive to be lied to, and partially because Frank has never seen the need to have to lie to his closest friends – and he knows he’s completely fumbling it up. But, like a true pro, he just keeps digging deeper and deeper. “I slept with someone else. Who I met—in the gym. She was—she was the best; she could totally bench press me which is so sexy.”

“I didn’t know that we were playing Two Truths and a Lie,” Mikey says as Ray stares at Frank like he just admitted to shooting adorable, little ducklings for fun, “but I’m going to say that you going to the gym ever is a lie, you sleeping with anyone else recently who isn’t Pete is also a lie, and that you genuinely think a woman who can bench press you is sexy.”

Frank pauses. “Okay, yeah. I don’t even know why I try.”

“Wait,” Ray says. “You slept with who now?”

“What are we talking about?” Gerard asks, coming out of the kitchen with a tray in his hands. Piled onto the tray are four glasses of cranberry juice and a wild assortment of candies, including toffee bits, loose M&M pieces, and Starburst candies that are no longer in their wrappings.

“We’re talking about how Frank is a liar,” Mikey says. “And also about how he slept with Pete.”

“You slept with Pete?” Ray asks while Frank is left spluttering, feeling oddly like a defendant who has been thrown on trial with no prep and no lawyer to hold his hand and wipe his tears and sweat away as he is inevitably found guilty.

“Who’s Pete?” Gerard asks, placing the tray down onto the table next to the plate of Celebration cookies and squeezing onto the chaise with Mikey.

Mikey obediently shifts over until half of Gerard is sitting on the chaise and the other half is on his lap and says, very slowly but affectionately like Gerard is a particularly stupid but adorable cat, “Pete Wentz.”

Oh,” Gerard says before swiveling around to face Frank with wide brown eyes. “You slept with Patrick’s best friend?”

“Your boyfriend’s not here right now, so Pete isn’t Patrick’s friend but mine,” Mikey explains patiently, before swiveling around to face Frank as well. “You slept with my friend twice?”

“You slept with Pete?” Ray is still asking. His hair seems to be puffing up in size, and Frank is once against presented with the very real possibility that Ray’s hair is actually that big because it’s full of secrets. “What—how did this happen?”

“Are you asking me about the logistics involved with gay sex?” Frank asks, feeling a little defensive about how Ray sounds like he just found out that Frank got slapped with a lifelong prison sentence and also got diagnosed with the Walking Corpse Syndrome at the same time or something.

No!” Ray says, before pausing. “But if you need to talk to me about anything, you know I’d be willing to listen.”

Frank rolls his eyes but reaches out to pat Ray affectionately on the knee.

“Okay, but can we go back to the fact that you slept with Pete again even though you told me it was a one-time deal?” Mikey asks as Gerard leans forward to grab a loose Starburst.

“Are you angry at me?” Frank asks, mind immediately flashing back to his as of yet still-unwritten will. “Don’t be angry with me; sleeping with someone twice isn’t all that different from sleeping with someone once.”

“No, I’m not angry. Again, your life, your choices,” Mikey says, rolling his eyes. “Besides, I’m actually feeling pretty proud of myself because I knew you wouldn’t sleep with Pete just once. But I can’t believe you thought you could lie to me.”

“It’s not like I went out to the convenience store with the sole intention of fucking Pete,” Frank says. “It just kind of—happened.”

“You bumped into Pete at a convenience store and then ended up having sex with him?” Gerard asks, voice slightly garbled and wet from the Starburst in his mouth. “Is this a porno? Is your life an actual porno?”

“No, my life isn’t a porno!” Frank says. He pauses for a second and then adds, “I can’t believe I even have to say that.”

“Sounds like a porno,” Gerard says, reaching forward for some toffee bits now. “Did your hands touch over a bag of chips or something?”

“No, no,” Frank denies vehemently and then slumps down further into the couch. Ray reaches out and pats him consolingly on the head.

“Aww, don’t be like that, Frankie,” Gerard says. He tosses a few candies at Frank in an attempt to cheer him up, but they end up pelting him like goddamn rubber bullets which cause Frank to squawk and squeak in fear and terror. “Whoops. Sorry, Frankie. But have some Jolly Ranchers!”

Frank stares down at the Jolly Ranchers that have landed on his lap and sullenly picks up a green one – arguably the best ones – and tosses it into his mouth.

“So, are you guys dating? What’s the situation here?” Ray asks while Frank sucks on his candy.

“No, we’re not dating,” Frank says before shrugging a little. “I don’t know. In between getting our pants off and climbing into the bed, we didn’t really have that much time to talk things over.” Things that weren’t specifically eunuchs, the psycho-analytical aspect of fetishes, Nintendo characters, decapitated penises, and snow globes that is. Fucking shit; the two of them must have sounded like such assholes.

“It’s important to talk things through, Frank,” Ray says. “Even if they’re only one night stands, but especially if they’re one night stands that you actually know and have to interact with outside of the bedroom.”  

“It’s also especially important if your one night stand is best friends with my boyfriend,” Gerard pipes up. This time, M&Ms clatter around in his mouth. “If you guys somehow fuck this up spectacularly, I can’t guarantee that I can keep Patrick’s hands from going around your throat. I also can’t guarantee that you guys will be able to avoid bumping into each other at, like, social events and stuff. Andy’s Pre-Christmas brunch. Ray and Christa’s dinner parties. Joe’s Easter Picnic Extravaganzas. Our wedding. Things like that.”

“Wait. Hold up—excuse me?” Ray sits up so quickly that Frank ends up getting jostled on the couch. A few Jolly Ranchers fall from his lap to the floor, but he ultimately decides to just leave them there; he can literally see a few empty Kit-Kat wrappers peeking out coyly from beneath the coffee table, so a few loose Jolly Ranchers won’t exactly move Gerard to tears. “You and Patrick are engaged?”

“Oh, no,” Gerard says with a shake of his head. Loose strands of his fire-engine red hair flop messily onto his forehead. “Not yet. But I feel like it’s just a matter of time.”

“Oh my god,” Ray says, slumping back down again. “Okay, well when you guys get engaged make sure that he actually knows that you’re engaged, unlike when you guys started dating and he thought the two of you were just pals for months.”

Man, that was so ridiculous,” Frank laughs, happy that the attention is away from him. “You kissed him and stuff, didn’t you? How the fuck did he think the two of you were just friends?”

“I don’t know. Patrick’s a bit oblivious sometimes,” Gerard says, which just seems like peek hypocrisy to Frank because Frank had the biggest, most obvious crush on Gerard for pretty much his entire college career (seriously, even the Timothy’s baristas on campus knew; they kept shooting him sympathetic looks every time Gerard did something Particularly Platonic, which was both comforting but also deeply infuriating), and Gerard didn’t even suspect once in all their years of friendship. Also, he has a piece of toffee stuck onto the front of his hair at the moment which seems like a different kind of obliviousness. “That and Pete’s probably got him desensitized to physical affection and stuff.”

“Frank,” Mikey speaks up. Everyone immediately falls silent. If one of Mikey’s powers is the ability to shame others via cold, still silences, then his second power is a daunting ability to capture the attention of the entire room but only if he wants to. Mikey’s usually camouflaged into the background, but when he wants to be heard, he does something with his voice – even though his tone and inflection remain the same as usual – and suddenly everyone hushes down.

“Seriously, don’t mess up,” Mikey says, slowly, solemnly. “If you hurt him, I’ll have to hurt you. But if he hurts you, I’ll have to hurt him. And I don’t want to hurt either of you or see either of you get hurt, so don’t test me.”

“We’re just—we just slept with each other, Mikes,” Frank says in the still silence of the room. “I’m not going to hurt him.”

Mikey stares at him, his eyes flickering all over Frank’s face, and Frank does his best to look as earnest as he feels. Pete’s a cool dude – they’re not particularly close, but they’ve always gotten along with each other. He’s something akin to a friend, and Frank always does his best to not act like an ass to his friends.

“Okay,” Mikey finally says, leaning back in his seat. Gerard – half-seated on his lap as it is – moves along with him and seems to visibly relax now that Mikey has. “Don’t be stupid about this, Frank.”

“I won’t,” Frank says quickly. Mikey quirks a small smile at him and then tosses a few Dots at him. Frank laughs and manages to catch one of the flying candies in his mouth, smiling at the triumphant noise Mikey releases and knowing that the two of them are good.

“So, is this something that’s going to happen regularly?” Ray eventually asks.

“I don’t know, seriously,” Frank says, leaning back and eating a handful of Dots. “We didn’t exactly plan the last two encounters. They just kind of happened.”

“Yeah, well, these things take time,” Gerard pipes up. He gives Frank a soft smile, the one where only one side of his mouth pulls up, making him seem lopsided and childish, but sweet and genuine as well. “You’ll figure it out, Frankie.”

Frank shrugs, and continues munching on his candy. All he knows is that he spent the last week jerking off to the memory of fucking Pete, and – if the opportunity arose – he would not be against falling into bed with the older man again.

Knowing that much seems to be enough for now.


-x-


Frank nearly jumps out of his skin when something clatters noisily into his cart as he’s perusing through the pasta options available at the local Whole Foods. There’s now a package of Oreo cookies sitting innocently atop his eclectic mix of processed tofu, olives, sunflower seeds, and cans of chickpeas.

He looks up and meets Pete’s crinkled-up brown eyes and wide beam.

“Hey Oreo,” Pete says, somehow grinning even wider.

“Hey, man,” Frank replies before nodding pointedly at the Oreos in his cart. “You know I can’t actually eat those, right?”

“The Oreos are for me,” Pete laughs, grabbing the packet of cookies and plopping them back into his own basket. “I just wanted to get your attention in the douchiest way possible, you know?”

“Eh, I give that a four out of ten,” Frank says with a nonchalant shrug. “I feel like you could have definitely done something way worse. If it was me, I would have opened a jar of pickles and just tossed the entire thing into your face.”

“Bullshit you would have,” Pete giggles in a way that makes it sound like he’s choking on something. Frank immediately tenses – getting ready to bolt off as fast as his tiny legs can carry him in order to get Pete a Venti-sized water from Starbucks – before shaking off the instinct. That incident with Mikey was actually scarring, apparently. “You would have felt all guilty about having to make the employees clean up all that pickle juice.”

“Damn you for knowing how altruistic I truly am,” Frank says, leaning forward against his cart to grin toothily at Pete.

“I’m not entirely sure that’s what altruism means, but sure,” Pete says before dropping all pretenses and looking at Frank from under his dark eyelashes. It’s Pavlovian, at this point, what that look does to Frank and his penis. He immediately starts squirming, well aware that popping a semi right in front of a bunch of Chef Boyardees is simply not the way to go. “I’ve been thinking about you, Oreo.”

“Oh yeah? Thinking about the delicious vegan hot chocolate I can make?” Whatever sexy talk is, Frank is nailing it. Right in front of the Chef Boyardees.

Pete blinks, clearly derailed in his attempts to tighten Frank’s pants to an unbearable degree, before letting out a loud peal of delighted laughter. “I mean, now that you’ve planted the seed in my mind, I’m curious,” Pete says, smiling big and wide. “Do you think you can make me a cup? Maybe after we have some fun together?”

“Hmm, that depends. What kind of fun are we talking about?”

Pete’s smile turns soft and sly. He walks around the cart in order to reach Frank’s side and leans in close to whisper into Frank’s ear: “I was thinking that you can watch as I show off one of my vibrators from the vibrator collection that I have stowed under my bed. And then maybe, if you’re feeling up to it, you can bend me over in whatever way, shape, and form you want and then just fuck me as fast and as hard as you want to.”

Frank has only cried in public (that he can remember) three times: Once, when he was seven years old, and he ran right into a phone pole, causing him to chip one tooth and lose another in the process. The second time happened when he was seventeen and his girlfriend at the time broke up with him over vegan calzones and pouches of Capri Sun; she told him it was because he was a bit too short for her, and also she really wanted to make out with Chet Jameson from the rugby team before they graduated high school, so really, breaking up was probably for the best. The third time happened during the second semester of Frank’s first year in college; it was midterm season, and he had been completely avalanched under two papers, a PowerPoint presentation on the Analysis of Functions and Complex Equations in Fractal Geometry, and also there were four midterms nipping away at his ass. The librarian had been very concerned for him.

It kind of looks like Frank might have to add another humiliating tally to the chart marking the amount of times he’s openly sobbed in a public space at this rate. Pete is breathing hotly against his ear with one of his hands cupping Frank’s jaw, fingers absentmindedly rubbing against his lightly stubbled skin, and it really isn’t helping the fact that it feels like Frank has a Chef Boyardee’s can of ravioli stuffed down the front of his grey sweatpants.

“Yeah?” Frank manages to croak out. He doesn’t sound human, but whatever. “You’ll let me do whatever I want to you?”

“Whatever you want,” Pete promises. He lays a gentle kiss against the shell of Frank’s ear before continuing. “You can bend me over whatever you want; you can pin me down or tie me up; you can blindfold me and call me names. Whatever you want, Frank.”

“Jesus fucking—” Frank groans and does his best to picture Wario and Waluigi going ham on each other. “Okay. Okay. Okay, yeah. Let’s do that.”

Pete – the little fucker – giggles and presses a sweet, chaste kiss against Frank’s cheek before fully pulling away. “Okay. Are you done shopping though?”

“I need chestnuts, but I don’t even fucking care anymore. Let’s go.”

And with that, Frank begins tramping down the pasta aisle of the local Whole Foods while Pete laughingly follows him.


-x-


“Okay, so if we do that again, I really feel like we should have a safeword,” Frank says.

The two of them are lying on Pete’s bedroom floor, staring up at the popcorn ceiling hanging over their heads. There is a thick, baby-blue, wooly rug cushioning them from the cold hardwood floor of Pete’s apartment, and Frank really does not envy the clean-up Pete is going to have to go through to make this rug free of all bodily fluids again.

“Mmm,” Pete hums before rolling over and tucking his face against Frank’s shoulder. Frank wraps an arm around Pete’s waist in response. “How about onomatopoeia?”

“Are you going to remember onomatopoeia if something goes wrong? Am I going to remember onomatopoeia if something goes wrong?”

“Fair point,” Pete mumbles against Frank’s sweaty skin. He begins peppering soft kisses against Frank’s shoulder, and Frank sighs, leaning into the touch. “What word do you want? Two-way street, Oreo.”

“How about abominable?” Frank suggests.

“Abdominal,” Pete says.

“Abominable,” Frank repeats.

“Abobinable.”

Frank barks out a laugh that disturbs the peaceful quiet that had settled over the room, but the heavy-handed way Pete tries to say the word deserves a laugh that it as loud as it is gleeful. Pete pouts up at him, and Frank just giggles even harder at the look of affront painted on the older man’s face.

“Abominable,” Frank says one more time in between high-pitched giggling.

“Abominiminable,” Pete tries, sounding like he’s gargling marbles or something, and Frank completely loses it, guffawing as loud as possible while he’s lying with his face facing the popcorn ceiling and back pressed against the wooly carpet on Pete’s bedroom floor.

“Dude,” he says, and Pete slaps him lightly on the chest.

“There’s too many syllables in that word!”

“As opposed to onomatopoeia?”

“Onomatopoeia makes sense! Abominimimible is an affront to the English language and it should be abolished as a word,” Pete says, doing his best to sound severe. His bright eyes and the miniscule twitch in the corner of his lips give him away though, and Frank laughs, rolling over so he’s hovering over Pete.

He kisses Pete, pressing his tongue against the seam of his lips and nipping playfully when Pete’s tongue meets his. Pete shakes against him in a way that Frank knows now to mean that Pete is laughing into his mouth, and the older man wraps his arms around his neck, arching up into Frank’s touch. The air is cold against Frank’s bare back and ass, and the thick rug can’t fully protect Frank’s sharp knees from the painfully hard wood of the floor, but he’s good for the moment just making out lazily with Pete on his bedroom floor. They are going to need to move to the bed soon though, if Frank wants to be able to make it to work the next day without a noticeable limp.

“Mmm,” Pete murmurs when Frank pulls away briefly for some air. “So are we using onomatopoeia?”

“Fuck no, man,” Frank laughs against Pete’s cheek. Pete turns to press a brief kiss against Frank’s lips. “How about ox instead?”

“Because ox starts with ‘o’ like onomatopoeia?”

“Yeah,” Frank says. He flops back over onto his back and groans at the resounding thud and the reverberation that travels up and down his spine from the impact. Yeah, it’s about time to move to the bed. “Consider it a compromise.”

“Mmm, compromises are pretty fucking sexy,” Pete says, leaning over Frank to press wet and open-mouthed kisses against his jaw. It’s super hot, but Pete’s added weight is seriously pressing him against the floor in a way that edges into hardcore BDSM torture gone wrong territory which ruins the mood a little. “You want to fuck me again?”

“Yep,” Frank says. “But on the bed.”

“Oh thank god,” Pete says, scrambling up on shaky legs. He reaches down and pulls Frank up. Frank groans; every part of his body is hard and stiff, and not necessarily in the fun way. “I was hoping you would give in first.”

“You could have said something too!” Frank says before groaning again. “Fuck, my back is killing me.”

Pete laughs and begins tugging Frank towards the bed via their joined hands. “Admitting that the floor was doing a number on my knees makes me sound so old though.”

“You are old,” Frank says. “You’re basically a grandpa, grandpa.”

Pete pushes Frank onto the bed before scrambling in after him and straddling him. Pete is a warm and welcome weight against his lap, and Frank reaches out to knead at the older man’s olive-toned thighs. The fat and muscle give way underneath Frank’s pale fingers, and its malleability seem almost reflective of Pete who moans wantonly from where he’s sitting astride Frank.

“Okay,” Pete pants, all breathless and husky in a way that has Frank’s dick pressing insistently against the seam of Pete’s ass. “If you call me grandpa again, I might have to use the safeword.”

“No grandpa kink, got it. Just eunuchs,” Frank says, leaning up so he can nibble on Pete’s neck.

“Just eunuchs,” Pete agrees with a bright laugh. Frank surges up to capture Pete’s smiling lips with his own. Pete laughs all the time, and it’s the same during sex too. The consistency is pretty nice. Frank licks his way into Pete’s grinning mouth.


-x-


Gerard’s art shows are always the weirdest culmination of classy and utterly bizarre. Kind of like the Addams Family. God, Frank should make that comparison to Gerard; it would make him so happy to hear it.

“Hey Frank.”

Frank peels his eyes away from a painting depicting a sentient can of Campbell’s tomato soup – brandishing a knife, a shark-toothed smile, and ill-intent eyes – and maiming a regular tomato with said knife to see Patrick making his way over to him with a flute of cranberry juice in his hands, looking oddly naked without his usual fedora or trucker hat.

“Hey, man,” Frank says with a friendly grin when Patrick stops next to him. The two of them have a fairly decent relationship considering the fact that Gerard is one of Frank’s closest friends and Patrick is Gerard’s longest standing partner ever. Frank really should work on becoming closer to the younger man though, especially since Gerard has been dropping engagement hints like a bird with goddamn diarrhea or something. He nods toward the slightly macabre painting of tomato-on-tomato violence and says, “I think this is my favourite one so far.”

“Yeah. Gerard got the idea after I made him a can of tomato soup once,” Patrick says with a small grin. “I’ve been too afraid to make him canned soup again.”

“God, Gee is insane,” Frank says with a light chuckle and a fond shake of his head. “That man can get inspiration from anything.”

“He really can,” Patrick agrees. He takes a sip of his cranberry juice, and the two of them stand in companionable silence for a moment, taking in the breathtaking display of tomato homicide, before Patrick says, nonchalant as can be, “So how have you been, Frank?”

Frank turns around to look at Patrick. Patrick is already staring back at him through thick, black-framed glasses. The can of tomato soup continues his fury-fueled murder-spree before them. “Pete told you,” is what Frank finally says.

“Of course he told me,” Patrick says. Frank appreciates the way Patrick lowered his voice when he said that; Patrick’s always been discreet. It’s probably to make up for the fact that his best friend is Pete, and Pete really wouldn’t know discreet if it punched him in the face and then kicked him in the stomach, but whatever. “Pete has no filter, and he’s my best friend. He tells me everything.”

Frank squints his eyes. “Everything?”

“Okay, I stop him before he gets too graphic,” Patrick relents before adding, “But he tells me enough.”

“What exactly did he tell you?”

“He told me that you guys are seeing each other,” Patrick says. His eyes are ridiculously bright under the pale yellow lighting of the gallery and ridiculously blue behind the lenses of his glasses. “Are you guys seeing each other?”

“We’ve been seeing each other. Naked,” Frank says quietly. Patrick’s face scrunches up. “And we’ve also been seeing each other before and after the times we get naked.”

“Okay,” Patrick says, slowly and patiently. “Are you guys dating?”

“No, we never really said we were,” Frank says. The ambiguity of their relationship bothers Frank just a little bit. He’s always been very neat; he likes things to go where they belong, and he enjoys his relationships to be as equally clear and straightforward. However, this thing with Pete is easy and fun, and that’s enough for him. “We’re just—having fun together.”

“Does Pete know you’re not dating?” Patrick asks, still deliberately slow and patient like Frank is an abnormally stupid child.

“I mean, he should? We haven’t even gone out on a date or anything like that.”

“God—Frank, no,” Patrick stresses. Frank can see the way Patrick’s grip on his champagne glass (cranberry juice glass) tightens, and he’s immediately reminded of the time Patrick leaped over a picnic table during one of Joe’s Easter Picnic Extravaganzas to sock some dude named Chris in the jaw. Patrick was super apologetic afterwards, and Frank is pretty sure that Patrick hurt himself more than he hurt Chris WhatsHisName, but still. Patrick leaped over a picnic table once just to sock some dude in the face. “You can’t just assume that the two of you are on the same page. Pete—he gets attached easily, and he reads into things. He doesn’t see the world as it is, man. He sees magic and romance and epic tales and adventures in everyday activities and interactions. And it’s—it’s amazing, and it’s one of his best qualities, but it also means you have to be really clear with him about your boundaries and—and your relationship status.”

When Frank just blinks at Patrick, the younger man walks closer to him in a way that definitely resembles a tiger stalking a buffalo more than one guy approaching a friend that he noticed at a social function. Patrick is shorter than Frank. He is wearing a goddamn argyle sweater vest with a red bowtie; he has absolutely no right to look as scary as he does.

“Frank,” Patrick says very seriously in his very deep voice. “You need to sit down and have a proper conversation with Pete to figure out what the hell you guys are actually doing. Don’t assume, don’t imply. Be explicit. If you imply something, Pete will just take it to mean what he wants it to mean. And if you have to let him down, let him down gently, or I swear to God—even Gerard won’t be able to save you.”

“Okay—okay,” Frank says. He seriously needs to write down his will tonight; he’s been threatened with death way too many times this past month. God probably wants him to write his will. He needs to find a lawyer. “I’ll talk to him.”

“Openly and honestly,” Patrick says. His grip on his flute of cranberry juice hasn’t lightened up at all, and Frank is honestly a little bit afraid of this tiny, elementary school music teacher. “And if you’re going to let him down, let him down gently.”

Frank has absolutely no idea what he’s letting Pete down from, but he nods rapidly anyway. Hostages will agree to anything after all, even if their captors are five foot nothing, are known to have more bark than bite (except for that one incident with Chris NoIdeaWhatHisLastNameIs) and unironically wears polka dot sweaters.

“Okay,” Patrick says, leaning back. Frank watches as Patrick transforms from Stern Teacher to Affable Friend before his eyes in marvel and wonderment. “I hope you enjoy the rest of the exhibit, man. I know that Gerard’s really happy that you managed to get time off work to come.”

“Gerard’s here,” Gerard says, suddenly appearing by Patrick’s elbow and proving once again that he is pretty much a cryptid that will only appear after tense situations have been thoroughly diffused.

“Oh, hey!” Patrick says, twisting around and laughing when he sees Gerard. Gerard grins lopsidedly in response, leaning in to press a soft kiss against his boyfriend’s lips.

“Ugh,” Frank groans good-naturedly. “Should the artist of the exhibition really be making out with his visitors?”

“Fuck off, Frankie,” Gerard says, pulling away from Patrick with a laugh. He wraps an arm around his boyfriend, and Patrick leans into his touch with practiced ease. Gerard’s edgy, all-black ensemble contrasts heavily against Patrick’s pastel blue, pink, and yellow argyle sweater vest, though his fire-engine red hair matches Patrick’s vibrant red bowtie (Frank’s not exactly sure that it’s intentional though). The two of them are going to get engaged, and they’re going to be the most mismatched couple in the entire world, but they’re also going to be the happiest one as well. Frank can’t wait.

“Hey, it’s a serious concern!”

“I don’t go around making out with all the visitors; I only go around making out with this visitor,” Gerard says, shaking Patrick gently with the arm he has wrapped around his shoulder. Patrick flushes red, but a tiny, pleased smile quirks at his lips.

“Boo,” Frank teases. “You should treat all your visitors equally. If Patrick gets a kiss, then I should get one too.” He puckers up his lips playfully, waggling his eyebrows to add to the mischief.

Gerard laughs and looks inquiringly at Patrick, who just rolls his eyes and says, “Go ahead.”

Giggling, Gerard leans forward and presses a chaste kiss against Frank’s lips. He pulls away quickly and leans back into Patrick’s side. Frank licks his lips; Gerard tastes like strawberry and kiwi ChapStick – because of course he does – while Frank probably tastes of cigarette smoke and General Adulthood Confusion.

“I thought you quit,” Gerard says to Frank, referring to the cigarette smoke and not the General Adulthood Confusion because Frank doesn’t think he can quit that one even if he moves on from Adult to Elder.

“It’s a work in progress,” Frank says with a shrug. “It’s been a stressful few days at work.”

“You have that building proposal deadline coming up next week, right?”

“Yeah, and it’s kicking my ass,” Frank groans, thinking about the architectural design he has sprawled out in the unsexist way possible over his work station. “God, why did you ever let me become an architect? I was meant to tattoo people for a living and we all know it.”

“Don’t sweat it, Frankie,” Gerard says with a supportive grin. He reaches forward and pats Frank affectionately on the chest. “You’ll figure it out.”

“Yeah, man,” Patrick says. “You’ll figure it out.”

Patrick says it in a way that makes it sound like he’s not just talking about the building proposal deadline Frank has looming over his small body, but Frank is frankly not excited about having to relive Mob Boss Patrick in any way, shape, or form, so he just smiles and ignores the double entendre lacing the shorter man’s voice.

He really needs to get on that will.


-x-


It’s a little embarrassing, but Frank actually passes out for a hot second after Pete rides him. The entire encounter was just so ridiculously sexy, and his brain was already so exhausted from barely reaching his submission deadline that a very intense orgasm could possibly do him in, but a very intense orgasm did indeed do him in.

He just conks out with his mouth gaping and a cherry-flavoured condom still on his wilting dick.

When he comes to, he’s been wiped down (the condom has been removed) and has a Tommy Wiseau blanket tucked all the way up to his chin. The pale yellow glow of the bedside lamp illuminates the room and causes shadows to stretch across Pete’s light green walls, and Pete is sitting beside him, flipping through his well-loved, dog-eared copy of The Importance of Being Earnest.

“Seriously?” Frank asks. His voice is shot to hell, but the sentiment needs to be said out loud. Pete looks over with a grin and places his book on the bedside table before reaching over and swiping some of Frank’s dark hair off of his forehead, cooing the whole while like a new mother or one of those birds that coo a lot. A Mourning Dove or something.

“Aww, did I tucker you out, baby?” Pete asks. His eyes are all crinkled up in the corners, and the grin plastered over his face can only be described as shit-eating.

“Fuck off,” Frank says. He pulls at Tommy Wiseau until the blanket is covering the lower half of his face as well. Pete brays out a laugh, and tugs the blanket back down. Frank whines in response but quiets down when Pete leans in to press a slow and languid kiss against his lips.

“You had a tough week, huh?” Pete asks once they separate. He pulls at the blankets until Frank resembles less of a tightly-wrapped burrito and more of a loose and languid quesadilla, and slips underneath the warm material. He curls himself around Frank, and Frank just sighs, letting his arm wrap around Pete’s shoulders.

“Kind of,” Frank says. He rubs at his face while Pete presses a gentle kiss against his collarbone. “God, why didn’t anyone ever tell me that being an architect would be so hard? The pornos always made it look so easy.”

Pete giggles and lays a soft kiss on Frank’s stubbly chin. “I can visit you at work if you want. I’ll wear my sexy blazer and bend over your workstation. You can pretend to be my boss, and I’ll pretend to be your quivering subordinate. I’ll even call you ‘Sir’.”

“Mmm, that does sound very sexy,” Frank says. “But I’ll also totally get fired if we did that, and since I don’t have my backup tattoo parlour up and running yet or a super successful band to take the brunt of my financial failings should I get fired, I think we should do the mature thing and refrain from having sex at my workplace.”

“Boo,” Pete says. “When did you get so dull and boring?”

“I don’t want to hear that from someone who was reading The Importance of Being Earnest literally five minutes after orgasming,” Frank laughs.

“Hey! At least I’m not an old man who falls asleep right after orgasming,” Pete says, slapping Frank lightly on the chest. Frank yelps appropriately and lets Pete rub soothingly at his chest in apology. “And Oscar Wilde is one of the funniest writers in the English canon; The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedic masterpiece.”

“What a literary geek,” Frank says teasingly. He’s tried reading The Picture of Dorian Gray two weeks ago and never got past page four. Oscar Wilde was a funny dude, sure, but Jesus Christ was he wordy. Maybe that’s why Pete likes him so much – the general resemblance can be quite uncanny.

“I did major in English literature,” Pete laughs. Frank pauses. He knows that Pete went to college because he used to bump into Pete during college parties a lot; they both drank like white suburban moms after dropping their kids off for soccer practice but before their husbands came home for dinner, and they both used to smoke weed like cracked-up French raccoons back in the day. Frank doesn’t recall feeling alive a single day of his entire college career, but at least he had fun (probably; honestly, he can’t recall, like, seventy percent of those raves). But even though he knows that Pete attended college, he had absolutely no idea what Pete actually studied.

“Did you?” He asks, genuinely curious.

“Well, I technically did a double major in English Literature and Political Science, but yeah,” Pete says. His fingers trace nonsensical shapes and patterns on Frank’s chest. “And you studied Architecture.”

“Architecture and Mathematics,” Frank corrects. Pete snorts like that’s the funniest thing he’s ever heard.

“Did you actually?” Pete asks. His happiness is contagious; Frank feels a wide grin pulling at the corners of his mouth, and – because he’s not Mikey and he doesn’t follow Mikey’s School of Stoicism and General Aloofness – Frank allows the smile to blossom on his face.

“Hell yeah I did, man. I wrote so many papers on mathematics and architectural design back in college, and I think I was half-baked when writing most of them too.”

“It’s good to know that no matter what the discipline, the students remain the same,” Pete laughs. “I remember writing a paper on the use of alchemical language in a poetry collection dated during the English Civil War period while I was drunk off my ass. I’m pretty sure I got a sixty-three percent or something like that.”

“Okay, but with a topic like that, I feel like you’d have to be drunk to write about it.”

“Nah, it wasn’t so bad,” Pete says with a smile. “I really enjoyed studying literature. It’s pretentious as hell, but I’m sure that being familiar with some of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poems will come in handy one day. Maybe if I’m ever on a trivia show or something.”

“Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poems,” Frank repeats before saying, “But Oscar Wilde is your favourite.”

“He’s the funniest! And he was a badass motherfucker who didn’t care about fitting into societal norms or standards,” Pete says. “Oscar Wilde was basically a modern-day punk, Oreo, and you’re missing out by not reading his words of wisdom and infamy.”

“Yeah?” Frank asks with a grin.

“Yeah,” Pete replies, equally smiley.

“Alright, you’ve convinced me. I’ll give The Importance of Being Earnest a try.”

“I can read it to you now!” Pete offers, reaching over to grab his copy of the book before Frank can even consent to listening. The way Pete is practically bouncing up and down in glee has Frank biting back a slew of smartass comments, and – if Gerard or Mikey or Ray were here – he would be boasting about his awesome self-restraint and consideration. “I can do the voices and everything.”

“Yes,” Frank says, leaning further against the pillow under his head and closing his eyes. “This is exactly how I always pictured my post-orgasm hazes to look.”

“Shut up,” Pete says. “I’m starting. Ahem. The Importance of Being Earnest, Act I. ‘Scene: Morning-room in Algernon’s flat in Half Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room. Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table—’”

Frank closes his eyes, and – even though he processes only about thirty-four percent of what Pete is reading – it’s nice to just listen to Pete’s voice, pitched high and low to accommodate different characters, but clearly brimming with joy the whole while.


-x-


It’s not that Frank forgets about Patrick’s thinly veiled threat about clarifying his relationship status with Pete. It’s that Pete is stupidly distracting even with his clothes on, so when they come off—well, Frank really stands no chance.

The first time he tried to have the Serious Talk with Pete, it ended with Pete eating out his ass and then blowing him like a champ on a seriously disturbing Wario cover and duvet. The second time he tried to do the Mature Thing and broach the topic to Pete, Pete ended up hogtied and blindfolded on Frank’s bed while Frank plowed into him from behind with an urgency often only found in people who were doing their final lap on a Mario Kart circuit; it was ten in the morning when this happened. The third time Frank pulled on his Grownup Pants in order to have the Relationship Talk with Pete, his actual pants somehow ended up on top of Pete’s fridge while his fist somehow ended up entirely inside of Pete’s ass.

After that, Frank didn’t try again. He was already suffering from whiplash from all these scenarios, and he really doesn’t want to further exacerbate the situation.

He’s reminded of his failure to comply with Patrick’s demands (and of the fact that Patrick once leapt over a goddamn picnic table in order to sock some random dude named Chris on the jaw) during Andy’s Pre-Christmas Brunch.

“Frank,” Patrick says, magically materializing beside Frank just as Frank is doing his best to stuff his vegan breakfast casserole inside Andy’s tiny fridge. “I need to talk to you.”

Patrick has this uncanny ability to sound both remarkably affable and seriously bloodthirsty at the same time. Frank has never been on the receiving end of this ability – though he has witnessed it once or twice, often directed at Pete’s long-line of exes which—well, what does that make Frank then? – and he is not exactly thrilled to be on the receiving end of it now.

“Alone?” Frank manages to squeak out. He’s doing his best to prolong his inevitable death.

“Yes. Alone.” Patrick grits out. “Maybe on Andy’s porch?”

And then Patrick’s pale hand is shooting out and grabbing Frank by the crook of his elbow. Frank manages to make frantic eye-contact with Mikey just before he’s pulled around the corner; he does his best to send SOS signals to Mikey via his eyes, but Mikey just raises one perfectly arched eyebrow at him and takes a long sip of his alcohol-free mimosa, and that pretty much sums up his stance on this entire situation.

At least Frank has written his will. But he only wrote it on printing paper with a bright blue gel pen. It hasn’t been signed or sealed or witnessed by a lawyer or anything. Hopefully the courts will still take it.

“Why haven’t you talked to Pete yet?” Patrick demands the moment the patio door slides shut. There is snow everywhere, and the winds are howling, and Frank has no idea how Patrick isn’t shivering and turning blue yet considering the fact that the younger man is only wearing a beige cardigan pulled over a button-up shirt, loose jeans, and a Santa hat. Frank is freezing. But Patrick is probably heated by his rage while Frank is left cold due to the elements and by the knowledge that Patrick will murder him before he gets to have any of Andy’s amazing breakfast quesadillas, goddamnit.

“I talk to Pete all the time,” Frank clatters out, because if he’s going to die, then he might as well die a Smartass. “We talk almost every day.”

“That’s the fucking problem!” Patrick bursts out before taking a deep breath. His voice is unnaturally even when he asks, “Are the two of you dating?”

“I’m not sure, we—”

“No chatter!” Patrick interrupts. “Are the two of you dating? Yes or no.”

“No,” Frank mumbles.

“Do you want to date Pete?”

Patrick stares at him with bright but narrowed eyes. Frank bites back the automatic response painted on his tongue and thinks very seriously about Patrick’s question. Pete is funny, and he’s nice. He’s hot as hell, and the two of them are very compatible both in bed and outside of it which is a nice surprise. Pete’s a good friend, but Frank isn’t sure that he’s totally on board with dating the guy. What would that even entail? Flowers and fancy restaurants? Meeting the parents and settling with a stagnating sex life? Arguments and cold-shoulders and grudges and finding incompatible parts of each other that don’t fit and mesh well together? What he has with Pete is nice and easy; it’s fun, and Frank doesn’t want to give that up.

“No,” he says slowly. Patrick’s eyes seem to shutter, but his fists unclench at his sides. Frank is still ready to do a drop and roll if need be, but Andy’s porch is surprisingly icy and he would really like to avoid that if possible.

“Okay,” Patrick says, calm and collected once more. There isn’t the thin thread of rage underlying his voice anymore, but Frank gets the feeling that the younger man isn’t exactly pleased either. “Okay. You need to make that clear to Pete; this kind of feels like you’re leading him on, and that’s not fair to him.”

“He knows that—”

Don’t assume that you and Pete think in the same wavelength,” Patrick interrupts a tad harshly. “He doesn’t think like anyone else in the world, okay? He always sees things that aren’t there, and it’s exhilarating and debilitating at the same time. So don’t fucking assume, Iero.”

There’s a moment of silence, punctuated only by the lightly howling winds and the rapid stampeding of Frank’s heartbeat.

“I’ll talk to him,” Frank finally says, solemnly and seriously.

Patrick doesn’t say anything. Instead, he just pushes past Frank, yanks open Andy’s patio door, and stomps inside. Frank can hear Gerard’s happy trilling of “Baby!” before the door slides shut again, and he’s left outside.

He moves towards the edge of the patio railing, brushing away the snow before leaning against the damp wood. Andy’s backyard is ridiculously large, and he has rosebushes and tomato plants everywhere; they’ve all closed up shop for winter, but Frank recalls all the bright colours of the various blooming plants during dinner parties and barbeques that Andy has hosted during the hotter months. Frank doesn’t remember how this happened, but one time Pete ended up falling headfirst into one of the huge tomato plants; he emerged looking like one of those zombies from the terrible apocalyptic movies that clearly had a budget of only fifty dollars, a few capsules of hot sauce, and a hairdryer or something, but he had been beaming and laughing his braying donkey laugh, and that’s pretty much Pete summed up. Always making the best of a shitty situation, laughing even when dripping tomato juice everywhere.

The patio door slides open. “Hey,” Pete says. “What the hell are you doing out here, Oreo? Trying to remake that scene from Titanic?”

“Stay back!” Frank says, whipping around to face Pete and doing his best to maintain a serious expression. “Don’t come any closer! Stay where you are; I mean it! I’ll let go!”

“Asshole,” Pete laughs, walking over so that he’s leaning against the patio railing with his shoulder pressed against Frank’s. “You’re standing on the wrong side of the railing too; if you’re going to remake an iconic scene, you gotta commit to it, man. None of this half-assed, dialogue-only roleplaying.”

“If I tried to climb to the other side of the railing, I’d probably slip and end up breaking my leg or something,” Frank says, using the toe of his boot to chip at the icy patches splattered all over the patio.

“That would definitely spice up Andy’s brunch,” Pete says, smiling up at Frank. Frank turns around to meet Pete’s crinkled up eyes and smiles back softly in return. They stare at each other for a moment – uncharacteristically silent – before Pete leans in and presses a close-mouthed kiss to Frank’s lips. Pete’s lips are cold and slightly chapped, and he tastes of orange juice from the mimosa mocktails that he had no doubt been chugging down. Frank licks at the seam of Pete’s lips, but Pete pulls away, laughing brightly, before the kiss can get any more heated.

“Come on,” Pete says, reaching down and grabbing Frank’s hand with his own. “Andy just brought out his breakfast quesadillas, and I know how they’re the only things that make your life worth living.”

“I would sell my soul to the devil for those quesadillas,” Frank laughs, letting Pete pull him towards the glass doors. “I would sell Gerard’s soul to the devil as well. Even Ray’s if it would get me more of Andy’s quesadillas.”

“But not Mikey’s?” Pete asks, turning around and shooting Frank a questioning look.

“The world would actually end if Mikey somehow ended up in the cahoots with the devil. He would thrive and probably take ownership of hell, kicking the devil out and becoming the head honcho himself. No one is ready for that; no one will ever be ready for that.”

Pete laughs, loud and familiar and contagious as hell. “God, Mikey would make a terrifying demon; good call, man.”

Patrick stares at them when they walk in – hand-in-hand – from outside, but Frank does his best to ignore the heavy weight of Patrick’s gaze for now. At least until after he’s had a few of Andy’s ridiculously delicious quesadillas swimming in his belly.


-x-


Pete is fully dressed in his mustard yellow woolen sweater and tight black jeans when Frank exits his bathroom, toweling away at the wet strands of his hair and relishing in the feeling of the pure cleanliness that occurs right after a nice, hot shower but before the grime of daily life can cake itself onto his body, destroying said sense of pure cleanliness.

“Are you leaving?” Frank asks. Pete even has his Mike Wazowski socks on. “You can stay the night if you want.”

Pete stands up from where he has been crouched on the floor, playing with and gently rubbing Frank’s old, granny-like dog, Sweetpea. He shoots Frank a small, slightly self-deprecating smile and says with a shrug, “I’d like to, but—I need to take my antidepressant meds and my sleeping pills before I go to bed, and I forgot them at home, so.”

“Oh,” Frank says. Pete looks sheepish and slightly embarrassed, as if his use of medication is something to be ashamed of, and Frank says “I’ll come with you” before he’s even completely thought the sentiment through. But, once it’s been said out loud, Frank realizes that he wants to walk Pete home; he wants to make sure the older man gets back safely. People usually drive like maniacs in New Jersey, and their typical maniacal-ness combined with the dark winter night and the flurries of snow banks lining up the streets like toy soldiers don’t exactly instill a feeling of confidence.

“You don’t have to, Oreo,” Pete says. “You just showered, don’t want to get all dirty again, you know?”

“Nah, I want to,” Frank says, hanging up his towel on a hook and grabbing a pair of loose, black sweatpants off the back of his computer chair before pulling them on. “I should take Sweetpea out for a walk anyway. She’s been feeling a bit antsy lately, haven’t you, baby?”

Sweetpea is curled up on Frank’s dark brown rug. She lets out a big, wet yawn in response to his baby-voiced query.

Pete lets out a soft huff of laughter at the sight. “Seriously Frank, you don’t have to.”

“I want to,” Frank says firmly. He grins at Pete and watches an answering smile blossom on the other man’s face. “Just let me grab her leash and then we can head out.”

Pete smiles down at the two Mike Wazowskis decorating his feet. “Okay.”

It’s fucking freezing outside, and Frank can literally feel his balls shrivel up in his sweatpants the moment he steps outside his apartment, but he’s committed now, and – whatever else he is – he is not a flake, so he just clenches his jaw and legs and does his best to not think about the fact that his balls are probably the size of raisins right now.

Sweetpea looks like she’s having about as much fun as Frank, watching him with judgemental, droopy eyes, and Frank just offers her a shrug in response.

“Are you sure you want to commit to a ten minute walk with me back to my place?” Pete asks, but they’re already meandering down the sidewalk, so the question seems a bit redundant.

“I’m even committed to the ten minute walk with only Sweetpea back to my apartment, man,” Frank says, and Pete laughs, bumping his shoulder into Frank’s and staying there. They continue walking, pressed against each other’s sides, and watching Sweetpea’s tiny little legs carry her forward.

“You can stay the night if you want,” Pete offers, smiling softly at Frank and looking at him from beneath his dark lashes. Frank’s raisin balls give a feeble twitch before ultimately staying down; even when naked Wario and Waluigi can’t come through for him, the cold will never abandon him, apparently.

“Can Sweetpea stay?” Frank playfully asks. Pete wisely ignores the way his teeth chatter through that question, and just lets out another stream of laughter.

“Well of course she can; she’ll be my guest of honour.”

“In that case, I might have to take you up on your offer,” Frank says. Pete smiles down at his feet again, and Patrick’s voice makes itself known in his head at that moment, stern and no-nonsense and threatening Frank with a good, old thrashing if Frank fails to live up to his solemn promise once more.

“Hey,” he says, and Pete’s head pops up. “I was wondering—”

“Your performance was pretty good tonight,” Pete interrupts him with a toothy, shit-eating grin. “I mean, I kind of wish you lasted longer, but whatever. It’s a work in progress, I know.”

“Shut the fuck up, fucker,” Frank laughs. “You were, like, comatose and barely even twitching by the time I was done.”

“I was just faking it to stroke your ego, Oreo,” Pete says. His eyes dance and sparkle under the fluorescent lighting of the streetlamps, and his smile is positively luminous beneath the nighttime sky. “Don’t want you to get discouraged, you know.”

“Oh yeah? And were you faking those three orgasms too?”

“I’m a very serious performer,” Pete says solemnly before breaking out into his braying donkey laugh. Frank punches him semi-lightly on the shoulder, and Pete yelps, flailing and almost falling into a snowbank before righting himself.

“I jest, I jest!” He laughs. “You were very good tonight. I still can’t really feel my back or my knees.”

“Thanks,” Frank says dryly. “But that wasn’t really what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“That’s a first,” Pete laughs. “Alright, what did you want to talk about, Oreo?”

Frank takes in a deep breath and then regrets it slightly. The air is cold and still, and his lungs feel like they’re freezing inside of his chest cavity from that intake of frigid oxygen. His teeth are clattering a bit when he finally asks, “What are we? We’re not dating, right? So, what exactly are we?” It’s not his most eloquent, but Frank has never been eloquent a day in his life, so this will have to do.

“Oh,” Pete says. Frank looks over at him, but Pete is facing forward. Sweetpea trots on before them like a real trooper. “What—what do you want us to be?”

Openly and honestly, Patrick had said. Frank does his best to comply, because he really doesn’t want another visit from Mob Boss Patrick in his beige sweaters and argyle vests ever again.

“I—I’m not really looking for a relationship, I don’t think,” Frank says. He tugs absentmindedly at the heavy beanie he has on his head and does his best to be open and honest in minus thirty-four degrees Celsius weather. “I like what we have. You’re a fucking cool dude—you’re awesome, and I have a lot of fun with you.” He pauses before shrugging a bit haplessly; Pete still isn’t looking at him. “I don’t want anything to change.”

“So, we’re not dating,” Pete says, slow and clumsy like he hasn’t properly spoken in days or like the cold has frozen his tongue to the top of his mouth.

“No,” Frank says. “Do you—do you want to be?”

“Dating you?” Pete asks, before shaking his head rapidly. “No, no, I don’t want that.”

“Okay.”

“Okay,” Pete parrots back in response. They walk in silence for a bit before Pete breaks the stillness with an uncharacteristically hesitant, “Are we seeing other people then?”

Frank hasn’t been with anyone else since he started sleeping with Pete. There really had just been no need; he saw Pete at least four times a week, and they were so compatible in bed that putting in the effort to try to bed some stranger really didn’t seem worth it. It also just felt weird to see Pete and then see someone else as well; Frank’s always had a one-track mind when it came to his interpersonal relationships, and this isn’t all that different. But – seeing as they’re not actually dating and beholden to each other in that way – it doesn’t make sense to bar each other from seeing other people.

“Yeah, sure,” Frank says. “We’ll both practice safe sex, obviously. And if something serious happens with someone else, we’ll talk and be open with each other about it.”

“Okay,” Pete says before falling silent again. Frank breathes in deeply and lets that conversation flow through him; he hopes that somewhere, Mob Boss Patrick is putting away his guns and sharpened knives and retiring his Mobster Fedora for his sweet and friendly teacher persona. Frank much prefers Affable Patrick over Bloodthirsty Patrick.

“This is me,” Pete suddenly says. Frank pulls his eyes away from Sweetpea’s little, sauntering rump and looks up to see Pete’s low-rise apartment looming before them. It started snowing sometime during the ten minutes it took to walk from Frank’s place to Pete’s building, and white, fluffy snowflakes catch on Pete’s bleached-blonde hair and dark lashes. Underneath the streetlamp and illuminated by the lights from the apartment, Pete looks like something out of those snow globes he loves so much – timeless, picturesque, and dream-like.

Frank smiles at him. “Hey—”

“I’ll see you around, Oreo,” Pete says, interrupting Frank before he can finish his sentence. He crouches down and rubs affectionately at Sweetpea’s head and chin before standing back up. He shoots Frank a small smile before slipping into his building.

Frank watches him through the glass doors until Pete slips into the elevator and disappears from sight. Sweetpea gives a little, deep, muffled woof and Frank turns around and shoots his tiny, little dog a smile.

“Yeah, let’s go home, baby.”

He looks up just as the lights flicker on in the apartment window that he knows is Pete’s unit. He can see Pete’s tacky neon green curtains pulled to the corners of the window, and he can see the weird Crassula Umbella plant (“It looks like a donut, Oreo!”) Pete has sitting on his windowsill. Pete probably took off his boots by kicking them off and leaving them in a crumpled mess in the foyer, and he probably took off and dropped his coat on the hallway ground like the barbarian he is. He’s probably going to read Act III of The Importance of Being Earnest before falling asleep, and he’s going to snuggle deeply into his ridiculous George Costanza duvets in his slumber. 

Frank looks back down at Sweetpea who’s been a real patient champ throughout this entire debilitatingly cold adventure.

“Let’s go.”


-x-


Frank doesn’t see or hear from Pete for a bit over a week following their Very Serious Relationship Talk. This is a little bit concerning considering the fact that Frank has pretty much seen Pete at least four times a week (if time and work permits it) for the past two months, so this radio silence feels odd and unnatural, and it leaves Frank a bit on edge.

However, a lot happens during that week and a bit, distracting Frank from the sudden gaping hole in his life that Pete’s presence somehow took up without him noticing.

For one thing, it was Christmas Eve, and Christmas, and Boxing Day, which meant that Frank was busy divvying his time between his mom and other relatives, and Gerard, Mikey, and Ray. He gained approximately twenty pounds during this three day period alone from consuming way more food than his body will ever need, only to immediately lose said twenty pounds from the sheer anxiety of having to converse with his many relatives and the epic parkour he had to do in order to evade questions regarding marriage and children and his tattoos posed by his nosy aunts and even nosier uncles.

Then there were also a bunch of company parties and events that he had to attend (had to). He had to pull on his Grownup Pants, and talk about a bunch of Grownup Things with other Grownups, all while slowly counting down the minutes until he can politely duck out, go back home, strip down to just his Daredevil boxers and ridiculous Ebenezer Scrooge sweater, and cuddle with Sweetpea on his couch while Ghosts of Girlfriends Past plays on his television.

But, the biggest thing to happen at all during this week and a bit happened over New Year’s. Gerard – sap as he is – proposed to Patrick just as the clock struck midnight, ushering in the New Year. It’s poetic, Gerard had gushed over the phone the next morning, to start the rest of his life with Patrick at the start of something else. Frank hadn’t disagreed. Instead, he had offered his bright congratulations to the older man before hanging up, pulling on his boots and coat, and making his way out into the cold, New Year morning.

“Hey,” he says the moment Pete opens his door. Pete blinks at him with his wide brown eyes and his long black lashes. His blonde hair flops messily onto his forehead, and he’s dressed in the most amazing reindeer onesie ever. The Nicolas Cage mug he holds in one of his hands really cements the entire look; it’s only been a week and a bit, but Frank feels like he hasn’t seen Pete or any of his ridiculous belongings in years (to be fair, that could just be the general holiday season stretching out disproportionately long as it's wont to do). “Is this a good time?”

“Oh,” Pete says before backing away from the door. “Uh, sure. Come on in.”

Frank walks in, closing the door behind himself and slipping off his boots at the foyer, placing them neatly on the tray Pete has laid out because he’s a fastidious gentleman. He follows Pete into his kitchen and takes a seat at one of the mismatched chairs.

“You want coffee?” Pete asks, already pouring a cup for Frank and taking out the carton of almond milk from his fridge before Frank can even reply. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Frank says, shooting Pete a wide grin and accepting the warm Bob’s Burgers mug from Pete. He sets his cup of coffee down onto the table before pushing a gift-wrapped box over. “I brought you your Christmas present.”

“You got me a gift?” Pete asks. The beginnings of a familiar grin is making its way across his face, and – by the time Pete sits down across from Frank and drags the box towards himself – he’s sporting his usual bright smile.

“I always get presents for my friends,” Frank says with a toothy grin in response. “Don’t get too excited though; I’ve been told that I’m a shit gift-giver.”

Pete softly smiles down at the plump, little Mrs. Clauses decorating the shiny wrapping paper, and asks, “By Mikey?”

“Who else, man?” Frank laughs, taking in the giggle that escapes Pete at his comment. “Go on. Open it. Just pretend you like it though, if it turns out that Mikey’s heartless comments are true.”

Frank watches as Pete tears into the present; his general chaotic, messy energy gets translated into how he opens gifts too. His fingers scramble at the paper, foregoing the taped ends and simply ripping into whatever he can get to. He lets the ripped paper flutter where it will go – tabletop, floors, under the fridge; the world is their oyster – and Frank does his best to not visibly wince at the mess he’s made.

When Pete opens the little cardboard box that was hidden underneath all those Mrs. Clauses, Frank worries his bottom lip, just the tiniest bit nervous. Mikey – though harsh he may be – is always fair in his judgements; Frank really is kind of a shit gift-giver. One year, he gave Ray a thirty dollar gift card to Bath & Body Works as well as a pack of women’s white socks (it was an accident, the women’s socks, not the gift card – though both of them had been a mistake) and the following year, he ended up giving Gerard an apron that had read ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’. It wasn’t even a St. Patrick’s Day gift; it was a birthday gift. That’s how lost Frank generally is when it comes to gift-giving. He tried really hard when it came to Pete’s gift. It’s the first year he’s ever bought Pete anything (birthday shots don’t count) and he wants it to be a good gift. At first, Pete’s ridiculous and eclectic taste in everything made soul-searching for the perfect gift a bit daunting before Frank realized that Pete’s eclecticism is actually helpful.

Pete’s face lights up in the white morning brightness of his kitchen, and Frank breathes out a sigh of relief, knowing that – for once – he won’t receive a lukewarm response akin to the “Oh—thanks for the…the women’s socks” that Ray had managed to muster up for the gift he’s given.

“Oh my god,” Pete laughs, pulling out a snow globe from the box. Inside the glass is an afternoon tea scene; there are two women dressed in lovely, vibrant, Victorian-style dresses sitting at the table and two gentlemen standing behind them. The tiny table is laden with miniature food – a silver tea set sits atop a tray while little tarts and cucumber sandwiches fan out around it. Frank paid a lot of money for this snow globe – not even including the shipping and handling fees which he basically had to sell one of his kidneys to cover – so the detailing is absolutely amazing. The folds of the dresses are crisp, their faces are sweet and smooth, and the painted food look good enough to eat. Pete beams, shaking the globe and watching as the green confetti swirls around in a merry dance.

“You got me an Oscar Wilde snow globe,” Pete laughs, peering down at his gift and soaking up all the details.

The Importance of Being Earnest,” Frank agrees, puffing up his chest a little because he’s proud and apparently a bit of a peacock. “It’s your favourite.”

“It’s during the garden scene too,” Pete coos. “Oh, Gwendoline’s dress is so lovely. And Jack looks so constipated! This is perfect. Oh my god, thank you so much.” He leans over the table and presses a smiling kiss against Frank’s mouth. Frank hums against the warmth of Pete’s lips and reaches up with one hand to grip at the back of Pete’s neck in order to deepen the kiss, but – before he can do so – Pete abruptly stiffens in his hold and pulls away. Frank blinks as cold air takes the place where Pete just was, and Pete stares at him with wide eyes from across the table. They sit there for a moment, Frank slightly confused and Pete gaping, before the older man leaps out of his seat.

“I—I have your present, too,” Pete says, scampering out of the kitchen. “Wait right there, Oreo!”

Frank is left staring at a The Importance of Being Earnest snow globe, a Bob’s Burgers mug, and a much more ridiculous Nicolas Cage one. The constipated face of John seems to wink at him from the liquid in the globe, and Frank feels compelled to shrug in response. He’s glad that Pete likes the snow globe and that it’s apparently true to the play and his idea of the characters, because try as he might, Frank still has absolutely no idea what the story is actually about. He listens diligently whenever Pete reads it out loud, but he apparently computes exactly zero percent of it. A moron Frank may be, but he’s a moron that tries.

Pete is gone for a long enough time that Frank actually worries for a bit (what if he fell into the toilet? What if he—nope, that the only scenario Frank can think of), but he comes back with a Christmas-themed bag in his hands before Frank can actively for look for him.

“I got you a few things,” Pete says, settling into the red oak chair beside Frank before passing the paper bag to him. “They’re nowhere near as awesome as your present, but – in my defense – Mikey told me that you’re the shittiest gift-giver in the world so I didn’t think I’d have to actively compete for the title of Champion Gifter.”

Frank laughs and pulls the bag towards himself. “You gossip about me with Mikey?”

“He has absolutely nothing nice to say about you,” Pete says with a toothy grin before taking a sip of his own coffee. Frank laughs again before carefully un-taping the bag and taking all the tissue paper out. He makes sure to take his time folding up the tissue paper into neat little rectangles as well just because he knows that it will drive Pete nuts, and he’s not let down.

“Come on, man,” Pete whines after letting Frank have his fun for a solid thirty seconds. “I want you to see what your presents are before the next Christmas comes and passes.”

“But it’s so satisfying, folding up tissue paper,” Frank teases. He squeals loudly when Pete slaps him lightly on the chest and shoulder just because he knows it’ll make Pete laugh.

“Come on,” Pete laughs. “Move your ass, Oreo.”

“Okay, okay,” Frank relents, taking out all the remaining tissue paper and placing them flat on the tabletop. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he says, looking into the bag.

There are three items inside of the bag: The first item is a thick paperback book entitled Becoming a Kink Aware Therapist; the second item is a large, printed, comic art poster called “The Night Before Die Hard” – the entire movie is broken down into sixteen animated panels while the words parodied after “The Night Before Christmas” lays out exactly what is occurring in each panel in delightful rhyme and meter; the third item is a mug with the words “Dear Algebra, please stop asking us to find your X. She’s never coming back and don’t ask Y” emblazoned on it in funky font.

“What the fuck,” Frank says, pulling out the book and staring at the plain black cover.

“You asked me about kinks once and where they originated from or some shit like that, so I went down to the local sex shop and asked them to recommend me a really in-depth book on kinks that also provides a psycho-analytical theory that goes behind them.”

Shit, man,” Frank laughs, flipping the book open and reading the jacket. “Did you actually?”

“Oh yeah,” Pete says with a self-satisfied grin. “It was a very interesting conversation I had with the sex shop worker. We really built a sizzling and dynamic rapport, you know? I might ask him out for coffee next week.”

Frank giggles and carefully pulls out the poster. “This is—this is amazing. I’m hanging this right in the middle of the living room and building a goddamn shrine around it.”

“I got it commissioned,” Pete says with a small smile. “The artist was beyond confused by my request, and we had, like, the most epic game of broken telephone where my requests got more and more garbled as time went on, but—it turned out pretty great.”

“It turned out fucking awesome,” Frank says before shooting the older man a sly grin. “Almost as awesome as the snow globe I gave you.”

“We don’t compliment ourselves in this household, Oreo,” Pete jokingly admonishes him. “This is an egotistical-asshole-free zone. Egomaniacs get kicked in the nuts then kicked out of the pad.”

Frank makes a show of protectively cupping his nuts, making Pete laugh loudly, before he takes out the cup from the bag. “Is this your way of making fun of me?” Frank asks, raising an eyebrow at Pete.

“Technically the kink book is also a way for me to mock you, but yeah,” Pete says. “Who would have ever guessed that you would be a math nerd?”

“Women are really into guys who can actually figure out their taxes, you know,” Frank says, putting the cup down onto the table and twisting around to face Pete. He shoots the older man a wide, toothy grin, and Pete smiles back in response.

“Oh? Are they?”

“I wouldn’t actually know. I have no fucking clue how the IRS forms work.”

Pete breaks out into laughter again, and Frank leans forward to capture his upturned lips in a kiss. Pete quiets down and remains still and silent against him, but he doesn’t pull away; Frank backs off with a concerned frown once it becomes clear that Pete won’t be kissing back.

“Is everything okay?” Frank asks, reaching out and brushing a thumb against Pete’s stubbly cheek. Pete’s eyes flicker all over Frank’s face. Frank can’t read the exact expression on Pete’s face, but it vaguely resembles Ray’s face when he ripped open his present and found a Bath & Body Works gift card and a pack of women’s socks (in white), just slightly confused and not exactly disheartened, but not not disheartened either.

“I—so Gerard finally asked Patrick to marry him, huh?” Pete says after a long moment. Frank blinks at the seemingly random comment and allows his hand to drift down to the back of Pete’s neck. Pete smiles lightly at the touch, but doesn’t move into it as he usually would.

“Yeah, he asked him last night,” Frank says with a shrug. “It’s—I mean, it’s not exactly a surprise. Gerard really wouldn’t know subtlety if it slapped him in the face; he’s been dropping proposal hints for, like, a few months at this point.”

Pete’s smile is a bit weak and watery at the edges for some reason. Frank gently rubs at the nape of Pete’s neck with an affectionate thumb. “Hey, talk to me, man.”

Frank can feel it when Pete takes in a deep breath of air; the column of his neck seems to almost ripple with the movement of his lungs expanding and constricting. It’s oddly intimate, being so close that he’s sharing the same air as Pete, and it’s something that he’s done a hundred times at this point – he’s pretty sure that he’s kissed Pete more than he’s kissed anyone else in his life, and he had the same girlfriend for all four years of his high school life before she inevitably broke up with him in order to make out with Chet Jameson from the rugby team – but there’s something about sitting in the bright daylight of the glistening January morning, not kissing, just breathing together, that’s so close and personal and familiar.

“Patrick and I talked about this, you know,” Pete says, oddly quiet and uncharacteristically still. “We always said that if either of us were to ever get married that I’d definitely get hitched first. And not just because I’m five years older than him, but because I—I fall in love so easily, you know? I feel like I’ve spent most of my life in love with someone which is—which is fucking ridiculous.”

“Why the hell is it ridiculous?” Frank asks. His other hand comes up to cup Pete’s jaw, and Pete reaches up to grasp Frank’s wrist with curling fingers and a warm palm.

“It’s fucking ridiculous because I don’t think anyone has ever been in love with me,” Pete says, low and rough like the words are being ripped out of his esophagus. “Not in the same all-consuming, life-destroying, world-building way that I love them.”

“Bullshit,” Frank says. And that’s really all he can say, because that idea is utter horseshit. Pete just lets out a broken-sounding laugh though.

“It doesn’t even fucking matter. I’m beyond thrilled for Patrick. He deserves every happiness in the world—he’s fucking everything.” Pete says that in a way that makes it impossible to dispute the fact (not that Frank ever would); he says it in a way that makes it sound like it’s a scientific truth, but like a scientific truth that is so indisputable that even the Flat Earthers of the world won’t be able to deny it. “I just—Patrick getting engaged just makes me feel really old and really alone.”

Frank pauses and lets Pete’s words echo around in his head.

“You know, I used to be crazy in love with Gerard,” is what he finally settles with. Pete’s eyes flicker up to meet his, but he doesn’t say anything. “I met him in my first year of college, and—and he took my breath away, man. He was the strangest, most beautiful person I had ever laid eyes on, and – I swear to God – I thought that I was going to marry him. Even if that did mean that Mikey would’ve been my brother-in-law. That’s how in love I was; I was willing to accept Mikey into my family. I was willing to call him brother if that meant that I could marry Gee.”

Pete lets out a small laugh at that, and Frank smiles, reaching up to cup Pete’s face with both hands.

“Spoiler alert though: He didn’t love me back,” Frank continues. “I mean, I never confessed to him, but he always treated me like a kid brother which kind of gave it away. And it sucked ass for the longest time. I’m pretty sure you can blame my general insobriety throughout college on my unrequited love for Gee. I thought that I would never recover. In my darkest moments, I debated shaving my head and just going bald. What’s the point of having hair if I don’t have love? That’s an actual thought I remember having.”

“Is that why you dyed half your hair red and the other half bleach white during your second year?” Pete asks.

“Oh no,” Frank laughs, shaking his head. “That was just me being a badass.”

Pete’s nose scrunches up, but the small smile curling on the corner of his lips is a welcome sight. Frank feels some of the tension that had gathered along his shoulders dissipate. “I think that hairstyle might actually be why Gerard never fell in love with you.”

“Nah. He just didn’t love me because he didn’t love me,” Frank says with a head shake. Despite his words, Frank feels a quiet sense of acceptance settle deep in the recesses of his chest. He’s come to terms with this reality years ago; his unreciprocated love for Gerard is less of an old would that has been scabbed over and more of a faded picture that perfectly captures a crystalline moment in his life. The photo is dog-eared from endless nights fiddling with it, and it’s tearstained from the fact that Frank had been a giant, emotional mess over the entire thing, but it’s something that he can now reminiscence fondly over. Even the tearstains have become a sort of port for him. This knowledge makes it easy for the words to flow out of him.

“That’s okay though; I just loved him enough for the both of us. And that’s the thing, Pete. It doesn’t matter that you fall in love easily; it just means that you have enough love in your heart to give it away to whoever needs it. It means you’re a fucking optimist living in a world full of pessimists. It’s just practice for when you meet the person you’re going to marry—every person you fall in love with and give yourself away to is just one step closer to that person you’re going to spend the rest of your goddamn life with.”

Pete blinks up at Frank. His eyes are dewy and so, so brown, and Frank just instinctively smiles at the sight of them. He feels like he’s run 40k marathon or something ridiculous like that, except he actually opened up emotionally which – as it’s scientifically proven and agreed upon – is much harder than running any stupid marathon.

“You really think there’s someone out there waiting for me?” Is what Pete finally says.

“Well shit, Pete,” Frank says, pulling away and settling against the back of his chair. “If you can’t find love then I’m pretty much fucked, aren’t I? You’ve got bleached-blonde hair; you work for a goddamn NGO; you’re some sort of magical wordsmith; and you used to be a college soccer star. Meanwhile, I’m just a short, Hobbit-like, tattoo-ridden architect with a fancy math mug. If you don’t manage to find love then I might as well just give up and join a convent right now.”

Pete lets out a soft huff of laughter. When he finally looks up again, he peers at Frank from underneath his dark lashes.

“Do you want to fuck me?”

Frank reaches out and grabs one of Pete’s hands. He squeezes and feels Pete squeeze back. “We don’t have to have sex if you don’t want to,” he says, remembering how cold and stiff Pete had felt in his hold just moments before. “I just really came here to give you your Christmas present.”

“I want you to fuck me,” Pete says, oddly solemn for the words leaving his mouth. “I really want you to fuck me, Oreo. But only if you want to.”

Frank smiles and leans forward until his nose is brushing against Pete’s. “Yeah, alright. Do you want me to fuck you here or in the bedroom?”

“Bedroom,” Pete breathes out. “I just laid out my Dwight Schrute covers.”

“Mmm, I always wanted to fuck on Dwight’s face.”

“I’m not even surprised,” Pete murmurs, before surging forward and capturing Frank’s lips in a hot, open-mouthed kiss. When Frank licks at the curve of Pete’s lips this time, Pete completely melts in his arms, pliant and malleable and oddly perfect in his hold.

“Please, Frank. Please.”

“Okay,” Frank says, because really – what else can be said? “Okay.”


-x-


Frank’s relationship with Pete becomes much more intimate yet distant at the same time after their conversation on New Year’s.

It’s weird, and Frank can’t really explain it, but it kind of feels like he and Pete are sharing a perpetual phone call; they’re bodily removed from each other, separated by oceans and forests and goddamn cities populated by millions of people, but they can hear each other’s breathing pressed right up against their ears.

Frank is kind of relieved that he no longer goes to therapy, because he doesn’t even know how to begin explaining that shit.

In any case, the two of them are much more vulnerable with each other, and not just in the sexy, kinky way either. One time, after Pete blew him and while they were basking in the afterglow, Frank ended up telling the older man all about how his father abandoned him and his mother when he was only six years old – Frank is pretty sure that they were talking about Darth Vader immediately prior to his open therapy session with Pete. Another time, after Frank had fucked Pete deep and slow – missionary style – Pete told him about the night terrors that sometimes haunt him and how he used to imagine falling asleep and never waking up again.

And it’s not as if they never talked before then; they talked about a lot of (useless) things, like favourite TV shows and movies, music, politics (this isn’t a useless thing), the differences between waffle batter and pancake batter, even Celine Dion’s ever-changing, ever-eclectic taste in fashion. And it’s not like the two of them stopped talking about stuff like that altogether and only talk about the morbid, traumatic events from their past that ended up shaping them into the people they are today, it’s that even when they’re debating the ending of How I Met Your Mother or discussing the merits of Bender from Futurama, there’s a newfound sense of intimacy in these interactions that hadn’t been fully realized before.

However, despite this undeniable closeness that’s been slowly unfurling and blossoming between the two of them, Pete also always feels a little bit distant. He’ll smile in the same way, and he’ll laugh the same braying, donkey laugh. He’ll still read passages of The Importance of Being Earnest out loud, and he’ll still call Frank “Oreo” in an undeniably affectionate tone of voice. But something about him feels out of orbit, out of reach.

Frank doesn’t want to admit it, but it unsettles him a bit.

“So, are you still sleeping with Pete?” Mikey asks, because the Way brothers really wouldn't know what subtlety is even if it tearingly threatened them at gun point.

Frank takes a sip of his coffee in a fruitless attempt to avoid having to answer the question. Mikey squints at him, and Frank does his best to not fidget; Mikey Way can smell fear and nervousness like a bloodhound or something.

“You are,” Mikey finally says, settling back into his chair. Frank sighs. Why does he even try?

“What the fuck, man,” he mutters into the rim of his Starbucks cup.

“It’s been what? Two and a half months? Almost three months?” Mikey asks rhetorically. “I think this is the longest relationship you’ve been in since your last girlfriend.”

“My last girlfriend was during high school, and she left me for a rugby player.”

“Exactly,” Mikey says. His eyes are extra dark and broody today. He’s clearly bringing his A-game, because Frank can practically feel the laser beams shooting out of Mikey’s eyes and hitting him right in the chest and stomach. Or maybe calling Mikey’s eyes X-Ray eyes is more apt; Frank always feels more naked under Mikey’s gaze than in any other situation. He can probably strip down in the middle of a strip mall and feel less naked there than he does right now, sitting before Mikey Fucking Way and his goddamn mutant eyeballs.

“What do you want from me?” Frank whines when it becomes clear that Mikey won’t continue speaking.

“You’ve been sleeping with Pete for three months,” Mikey says, slowly and seriously. “Are you guys dating?”

“No.”

“Why the hell not?” Mikey asks, and Frank pauses. While Patrick had grilled him on his relationship status with Pete, he never bothered asking him why they’re not dating; he had just sighed and nodded and accepted the fact that they’re not properly together. This is the first time anyone’s bothered asking the whys regarding this situation.

“I like what I have with Pete now,” Frank says. “What we have is good, and I don’t want to rock the boat or complicate things by labeling it.”

“Oh my god,” Mikey says before he leans forward again. His coffee must be cooling by his elbow at this point, but he hasn’t even bothered touching it. This concerns Frank greatly. “Frank, you and Pete are basically already dating each other.”

“No,” Frank says dumbly. “No, we’re not.”

Yes, you are,” Mikey stresses. “You guys hang out together all the time. Whenever I hang out with you, we inevitably end up talking about Pete. You know his favourite movies and artists, and I’ve seen you try to pick up a copy of Dorian Gray, and you can’t tell me it’s because you’ve been trying to become more literate. You like him, Frank. You might even love him. And the two of you sure as hell haven’t been seeing anyone else, so what difference would it make if you guys just make this official?”

By the time Mikey is done his spiel, Frank is left gaping at him. He feels like he’s been sucker punched in the face, but instead, he’s been sucker punched by words which is somehow even worse.

“I like Pete a lot,” Frank says, sounding weak and warbly to his own ears. It’s because he’s been sucker punched in the face by words. “But I’m not in love with the guy or anything.”

“Do you enjoy being around Pete?” Mikey asks, not even deigning to directly respond to Frank’s protest.

“What—yes,” Frank begins to question before simply answering. When Mikey adopts that tone of voice, it’s better to just do what he wants. Otherwise, you end up like Frank in his third year of college: pantless but wearing a turtleneck for some reason, and dashing through the library while wielding a trombone in his hands. Frank doesn’t even play the trombone; he never has. He has also never owned a turtleneck, but that’s a different issue altogether.

“Does he make you smile? Does he make you laugh?”

“Yes.”

“Do you get sad when he’s sad? Are you happy whenever he’s happy?”

“Yes.”

“If I told you to close your stupid eyes and tell me the name of the one person you want to talk to every day for the rest of your stupid life, who would you say?”

“My mom?”

Mikey’s glare is positively venomous. Frank can feel the soy milk curdling in his belly.

“Try again.”

“…Pete.” Frank mutters, before adding, “But that doesn’t mean anything. Pete’s my friend, of course I want to talk to him, and of course he makes me happy—”

“If Pete told you he was getting married the next day to someone who isn’t you, and that you’re invited to the wedding, how would you feel?” Mikey continues in his role as a ruthless detective, forcing Frank to continue in his as a quivering prime suspect.

“I’d—I’d be happy for him.”

“Really.”

“I mean—it’s a little bit weird.” When Mikey just raises a judgemental eyebrow, Frank forces himself to continue. “I’d feel a little bit awkward, because Pete and I—we—we have history.”

“Yeah, history as friends with benefits,” Mikey says derisively. “What does that have to do with him getting married?”

“It’s—it’s because—marriage is like…marriage is—” Frank breaks off and imagines it, really imagines Pete getting married to someone else, and it sort of feels like getting dropkicked in the stomach by someone with really powerful thighs. It’s weird; the idea of Pete marrying anyone is weird, and not because it’s impossible for Frank to imagine anyone wanting to marry Pete. In fact, Pete is wonderful and anyone would be lucky to call him their husband. It’s just odd, and Frank has no idea why.

“Frank,” Mikey says. This time, his voice is oddly gentle, and Frank looks up to meet his suddenly much softer gaze. “Does Pete make you happy?”

Frank takes in a deep breath. This is starting to feel like an inevitable leap of faith.

“Yeah.”

“Do you want to make Pete happy?”

“…yeah.”

“I think you might be in love with Pete, Frank,” Mikey says, firmly but kindly. He sits back and reaches for his cup of lukewarm coffee. Taking a sip of the bitter liquid, Mikey allows his eyes to drift around the store, giving Frank a much-deserved breather.

Frank sits there as the idle chatter of the Starbucks’ patrons washes over him.  

He thinks about Pete. He thinks about the way Pete’s fingers are always moving, always tapping out a silent rhythm or a secret message in Morse code. He thinks about the way Pete scrunches up his nose when he laughs at something that’s particularly funny and also when he finds something particularly disgusting. He thinks about the horrible British accent Pete adopts when he’s reading out parts of The Importance of Being Earnest, and he thinks about the way Pete is a godawful actor, though he could probably make a decent enough orator. He thinks about the way Pete keeps his blankets and duvets in a cabinet underneath his bathroom sink, and he thinks about how Pete leaves his dirty socks everywhere, stuffed under every single surface. He thinks about the twinkle Pete gets in his eyes when he talks about Patrick, and he thinks about the indent Pete gets between his eyebrows when he’s drafting up funding proposals for his work. He thinks about how much Pete loves being called “sweetheart” in bed, but how much he hates being called “babe” anywhere else. He thinks about how oddly embarrassed Pete gets about his medication, and he also thinks about how shameless Pete can get when devising up scenarios for the two of them to reenact later. He thinks about how Pete can say the word “onomatopoeia” with ease, but the way “abominable” trips him up like nothing else. He thinks about Pete playing with Sweetpea, and Pete making him vegan pancakes, and Pete laughing as he’s washing his Wario covers, and Pete crying as he talks about how no one will ever love him in that all-consuming, life-destroying, world-building way he wants; he just thinks about Pete.

He thinks about Pete, and he thinks about how much he knows Pete and is known by Pete.

“Oh,” he finally says. “You’re right. I might be in love with Pete.”

“I’m always right,” Mikey says firmly. “I hope you know that I’m furious at having to meddle with this. The two of you are grown men; I shouldn’t have to hold your hands and guide the two of you towards each other like you’re toddling babies.”

“I might be in love with Pete,” Frank repeats. He can’t even begin to understand Mikey’s toddling baby comment; he feels like he went to bed in Kansas and woke up in Oz. “What should I do?”

“Frank,” Mikey says. “As I said, you are a grown man. What the hell do you want to do?”

Frank takes a sip of his lukewarm coffee. He kind of wants to curl up in a fetal position and cry, but he has a feeling that that’s not the answer Mikey wants to hear. He also wants to call Pete and just listen to him ramble on and on about how Caleb the Friendly Cannibal is the best thing to happen to Brooklyn Nine-Nine or listen to his rant about the merits of toe gloves.

“I want to talk to Pete,” Frank says slowly, like this is his first time talking ever.

“What do you want to talk to Pete about?” Mikey asks. He has dropped his threatening cop persona and adopted the persona of a much fatigued and much underpaid therapist.

“It doesn’t matter,” Frank says, and it’s the truth. “I just want to talk to him.”

“Well there you go,” Mikey says, nodding as if he’s satisfied with his own work. “Now buy me another cup of coffee. It’s the least you can do.”


-x-


Mistress Irony has always played a big part in Frank’s life.

When Frank was a young boy, he had always towered over the other boys in his grade; the parents had always cooed at his height and talked about how he would most definitely grow up into a looming giant. So, of course, he ended up growing to the mighty height of four feet nothing and then just stopped. Forever. Whenever Frank bumps into his mother’s friends, he always feels like they’re just a tad bit mortified at having puffed up this young boy’s ego and expectations – making it sound like he’ll grow into fucking Yao Ming or something – only for said young boy to grow up into a Hobbit.

Frank hated math growing up; he still kind of does, really. However, math was always the one subject he always scored perfect marks in, so he forced himself to sit through four years of Mathematics in college. He paid thousands of dollars to study a subject he hated.

Once, before Frank went out for a blind date set up by Gerard, he put on some deodorant because it was summer, and he tends to sweat like crazy, and he really didn’t want to scare off Gerard’s friend or acquaintance or whatever that situation was. Somehow, the deodorant he lathered on didn’t mix well with the new kind of fabric softener Frank used to wash his clothes, and he ended up smelling like actual roadkill. Roadkill that has been left roasting in the sub for hours; he doesn’t even know how a combination of Summer Breeze and Pine Woods could produce that effect. Gerard’s friend or acquaintance or whatever was most definitely scared off; Frank doesn’t even think she’s in contact with Gerard anymore which is how bad his stench terrified her.

The only time irony hasn’t seemed to break down Frank’s front door in order to kick his teeth in was after he interviewed for his architectural job. Ray had told him “You definitely got this, Frank. They’d be crazy to not hire—!” and then Frank had immediately tackled him before he could finish his sentence. He did end up getting the job, but Frank’s convinced it’s because he managed to take Ray down before the spell could have been fully cast.

In any case, Frank should have probably tried to tackle Mikey to the ground.

Mikey would kill him easily and feast on his flesh happily if he tried, but still.

“I met someone today,” Pete says quietly. His head is resting on Frank’s chest, and his fingers are brushing aimlessly over the tattoos etched onto the pale skin of Frank’s shoulders and arms. Frank is currently sexed-up, and sexed-stupid, and just generally stupid as well, so he doesn’t even fully comprehend Pete’s soft whisper at first.

“Met someone? Like, at work?”

Pete doesn’t say anything for a moment. Instead, he just turns his head and presses a kiss against the dip of Frank’s collarbone. His lips linger there for a moment, warm and soft and ticklish like a monarch butterfly’s touch, before he turns away again and rests his head against the younger man’s breastbone.

“No,” Pete finally says. His voice is uncharacteristically hushed, and Frank can’t see his face. “I met him at The Busy Bean. He asked me out.”

“Asked you out?” Frank repeats like the moron he is. The pieces are finally coming together, and he’s really not enjoying the picture that they’re forming. “What do you mean asked you out?”

“He asked me out on a date,” Pete says. His warm fingers are brushing rapidly against the soft flesh of Frank’s side, and Frank can feel the air freezing into some stasis state in his lungs. “I said yes.”

“Oh,” Frank says. He blinks, but Pete’s popcorn ceiling remains unchanged above his head, and Pete’s Rick and Morty bedsheets stay the same beneath his back, Pete’s head is still acting as a warm weight, as a familiar harbour on his chest, and Pete’s words remain unaltered in the open space of his bedroom. “Oh—I, um, I don’t—”

“I just thought that we agreed to be open with each other about seeing other people, right?” Pete says, twisting around to face Frank. His brown eyes are blown wide, and there’s something akin to concern swimming in them, but that’s undercut by the almost defiant set of his jaw and the obstinate twist of his lips. Frank feels—he kind of feels unmoored. “We haven’t slept with each other or anything, but—he was nice, and hot, and—you know, he might be the one.”

When Frank just stares at him in silence, Pete continues in a rush, “It’s just one date, and it might not even go anywhere, but it also might. I just wanted to let you know that this—this is happening. And I’ll practice safe sex, obviously. And if anything changes, you’ll be the first to know. Even before Patrick. I promise, Oreo.”

Frank feels like he’s been frozen in carbonite, but his Princess Leia hasn’t even told him that she loves him so he can say “I know” in the coolest and most suave way possible. Instead, his Princess Leia just told him that she’s going to go out with a fucking Ewok, and he can’t even say anything, because he was the one to say that maybe they should be seeing Ewoks on the side.

“I—” Frank manages to croak out. Pete’s eyebrows furrow in concern, and Frank clears his throat before continuing, “He better treat you like a goddamn king.”

Pete lets out a small laugh and reaches up to press a chaste kiss against the corner of Frank’s lips. Frank is a fucking idiot. “It’s just one date, man.”

“I mean it,” Frank says, curling one of his hands into the back of Pete’s head. His fingers gently twist the bleach-blonde strands of hair, and he rubs an affectionate thumb against the base of Pete’s neck. “If he doesn’t behave like a goddamn gentleman, I’m going to punch him in the nuts. And I’m short, so I’ll have an easier access.”

“Aww,” Pete laughs. “My knight in SpongeBob boxers.”

“You know it,” Frank says. Pete leans over to press a kiss against Frank’s lips. Frank closes his eyes and does his best to just enjoy Pete’s warm and familiar weight in his arms.


-x-


“How do you know if you’re really in love with someone? What if it’s just a very intense like? Like, what if it’s just a platonic relationship that has become so platonic that you can very easily mistake it for romance?”

“For fuck’s sake,” Mikey says, before he heaves himself off of Gerard’s chaise and stomps into the kitchen. Banging and clanging noises immediately sound, extra loud this time because Mikey isn’t just being his usual Doom and Destruction self, instead, he’s being his usual Doom and Destruction self but amplified by an extra dose of Done With Your Bullshit and another dose of You Deserve to Die Alone.

“Frank,” Ray begins when Gerard just sips nervously at his cranberry juice. Frank knows for a fact that Gerard’s cryptid instincts are blaring at full volume and that he probably wants nothing more than to just run out of his own house and sprint all the way to Patrick’s flat where there will be a comforting lack of tension and despair, and – somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind – Frank is grateful that Gerard considers him a friend enough that he’s still sitting there, in a tension-filled room, at all for any period of time. “Love and like aren’t two separate things. You don’t like someone and then transition into loving them; you like and love them at the same time. That’s how it works.”

“I probably don’t actually love Pete as a person,” Frank mumbles from where he’s slouched low on Gerard’s lump couch. “I probably just love his perky ass and his wicked sense of humour.”

“I—I don’t know how to respond to that,” Ray says a bit helplessly.

“Frankie.” Because of Ray’s mild malfunction and Mikey’s deliberate absence, Gerard chooses now to lean forward and place his half-finished glass of cranberry juice on the rickety coffee table before turning to face Frank. “Don’t do Pete the disservice of pretending you feel less for him than you really do. I’m sure you love his perky ass and his wicked sense of humour, but those are just aspects of him that you find appealing. You love him, Frankie. Why deny it?”

“Because admitting that I love him right as he’s in the middle of his date with some other jackass feels like a kick to the balls!” Frank declares, knowing very well that he sounds like a five year old child throwing a temper tantrum – a look that’s no doubt made worse by his crossed arms, tiny scowl, and general miniature stature. An extra loud clattering sound echoes from the kitchen as if to tell him to shut the fuck up.  

Ray, having apparently self-repaired his malfunction and doing his very best to ignore Mikey’s deliberately loud destruction of Gerard’s kitchen, says, “I just don’t understand. You have been hanging out with Pete for three months. How did you not know that you’re in love with him?”

“I don’t know,” Frank mutters sullenly. Gerard reaches out to pet Frank’s head like he’s a particularly sad dog or something, and Frank leans into the touch. “I hang out with you all the time, and I don’t want to fuck you—”

“Thank god for that,” Ray murmurs.

“—but I’ve also slept with people who I didn’t want to talk to all the time,” Frank continues, bulldozing over Ray’s sigh of relief, before pausing and letting his face drop into his hands. “Oh my god. I’m a fucking idiot.”

“Frankie, don’t be so hard on yourself—” Gerard begins soothingly.

“I’m a fucking moron,” Frank groans. “I like him so fucking much, and I didn’t even have a goddamn clue for months.”

“Come on, Frank,” Ray says, reaching out and placing a comforting hand on Frank’s shoulder. Frank sits there, sandwiched between Gerard’s motherly petting of his hair and Ray’s fatherly patting of his shoulder, and absentmindedly wonders if this is what having two parents feels like. “This is brand new territory for you, right? You can’t beat yourself up for this. I mean—there were a few missed opportunities, but it’s not like the door’s been—”

Frank just groans again and slouches further forward. Maybe he’ll manage to suffocate himself with just his two palms pressing harshly against his face and smushing his nose like a stupid grape.

“Mikey!” Gerard calls out. Something clatters violently onto the tiled kitchen floors. “This is a code one emergency! We need some backup over here!”

More banging occurs – Frank is pretty sure that Mikey is just furiously opening and slamming close the cupboard doors – before the sound of footsteps tramp out of the kitchen and echo harshly (way too harshly for someone who’s wearing socks) against the hardwood floor as Mikey makes his way towards the pathetic tableau that Frank makes.

Mikey smacks the side of Frank’s head with an open palm the moment he’s standing in front of him.

“Mikey!” Gerard exclaims, sounding appropriately appalled. Ray doesn’t even bother to react.

“Relax,” Mikey says. “Frank knows that he deserves it.”

“I do,” Frank mumbles.

“Pull your face out of your hands, Frank,” Mikey says.

“I can’t bear to look at myself right now.”

“Well it’s a good thing I’m not a fucking mirror, then,” Mikey says. Frank can hear the eye-roll in his voice, which is genuinely quite a feat. “Come on. Pull your face out of there.”

Frank does so (because he’s not stupid enough to make Mikey repeat himself three times) and comes face to face with the younger Way’s crotch. He groans again.

“Shut up,” Mikey says. “Look at me.” He waits until Frank meets his somber looking eyes before continuing, “Who cares if Pete is on a date with some dude right now? He’s only out there because you’re the one who said that the two of you shouldn’t be exclusive. Just talk to him, be honest. Let him know that you’ve changed your mind, that you don’t want to have an open, casual relationship anymore; just talk to him and tell him that you want to be with him in every sense of the word, Frank.”

“That would make me such a selfish asshole though,” Frank says. Doing something like that is like the equivalent of Kanye West jumping onto the stage and interrupting Taylor Swift’s moment or whatever. Okay, that is maybe not the most apt simile, but Frank feels like his chest has been scooped empty by an ice cream scoop.

“Frank, you’re kidding yourself if you think that Pete would choose some random dude he met at The Busy Bean over you,” Mikey says firmly. His eyes are unwavering and the set of his lips is severe, so he pretty much looks the same as always except for the clench of his jaw which means that he’s being as sincere as humanly possible. “You’re his friend. He likes you; you make him happy. And he evidently also thinks you’re hot stuff, if that hideous hickey on your throat is any indication. He’s not going to pick someone over you. He’s been talking to you pretty much every day for three months; he’s invested. You just—you just have to let him know that there’s something worth investing in here.”

“I just—” Frank says, swallowing and shaking his head slightly. “Patrick was right. I feel like I’ve been completely leading Pete on. I’ve been such an idiot about this whole thing.”

“You didn’t lead him on,” Mikey says. “You spent time with him when he was happy and when he was sad, not just when you were horny. And you’ve given a lot of yourself to him too, right? You’ve been dating him this whole time, man. You just need to let him know that you want to change the parameters of your relationship.”

“Mikey’s right,” Gerard pipes up. Mikey rolls his eyes as if to say “No shit”, but he allows Gerard to pick up the thread. “Relationships are just like people, Frankie. They're fluid and constantly changing. As long as you keep an open and honest line of communication, everything will turn out fine.”

Mikey and Gerard both sound so sure in what they’re saying that Frank has no choice but to nod and murmur, “Okay.” Doing anything else would make him feel like such a naysayer.

“You got this, Frankie,” Ray adds, squeezing Frank’s shoulder in a gesture of solidarity and support.

Frank breathes in deeply. Yeah. Okay. He’s got this.


-x-


Mistress Irony is a fickle, fickle bitch, and one day, Frank will learn to not decide anything with too much confidence or surety, because he most definitely does not got this.

He leaves Gerard’s home and makes it all the way to Pete’s low-rise building, braving the snow and the wind and dramatically thinking about how he would withstand much more if it was for Pete. The window that Frank knows belongs to Pete’s flat is illuminated; he can see the familiar neon green curtains pulled open, and he can see Pete’s Crassula Umbella plant.

He stands there under the streetlamp like he’s goddamn Freddy Krueger, gathering his willpower and his bravery around him like they’re his wand and his Invisibility Cloak respectively, when he sees a stranger appear at Pete’s window. It’s a tall-looking man with dark hair who’s wearing a burgundy sweater. For a blissful second, Frank doesn’t understand what he’s seeing, and then Pete appears at the man’s elbow, handing him a cup that Frank can tell – even from this distance; oh god, he probably really is a creep – is his Gary the Snail mug. The stranger laughs at the sight of the mug but accepts it nonetheless, and then he and Pete disappear from the window.

Frank feels cold, and it’s not just because of the January winter.

Maybe Pete really will choose Frank if Frank tells him that he wants to be with him, really be with him this time. Maybe he’ll kick that Clark Kent wannabe out of his apartment if Frank tells him that he wants to take him out on a romantic date, where he’ll hold his hands and gaze into his eyes and be so generally mushy that Mikey will really regret helping to bring them together; maybe he’ll wave his date away if Frank shows up and tells him that he wants to meet Pete’s family and that he wants Pete to meet his mom as well; maybe Pete will shoo that ridiculously tall man out the front door if Frank comes knocking, demanding that Pete reread The Importance of Being Earnest to him with all his terrible accents and even more terrible acting abilities; maybe Pete will smile if Frank shows up, not to demand that his date leave, but just to tell him that he loves him – that’s all. He just loves him.

Or maybe, that ridiculously tall, Clark Kent looking wannabe is the person that Pete is going to spend the rest of his life with. Maybe being with Frank was just practice for the real deal. Maybe Frank is just a step leading Pete closer to the person he’s going to be with, to the person who he’s going to fall in love with in that all-consuming, life-destroying, world-building way and who’s going to love him back with the exact same ferociousness.

Frank might have been an open-ended possibility at one point, but now he just feels kind of like a ship in the night, passing Pete and not even realizing that Pete is long gone, leaving behind only tendrils of smoke and the vaguest feelings of regret.

Frank stuffs his hands into the pockets of his jacket. Pete’s apartment light in still on. His Crassula Umbella seems to wave to him with their odd, donut-shaped leaves.

He spins on his heel, and walks back to his apartment.


-x-


“Hey.”

Frank nearly jumps out of his skin and rips the blueprint he’s working on.

“Jesus fuck—” He breathes. What a real life jump scare moment that was. He looks up, more than ready to go off if it turns out to be Daryl checking in on him again (no, Frank doesn’t care that Daryl is the Project Manager and his superior; that man is way too nosy and talkative – Frank is his employee, not his ratty neighbour or worn-out therapist), when he looks up and meets Pete’s warm, brown eyes.

“Oh,” he says. The previous fight leaves him but a different kind of tension makes itself known in his neck and shoulders. Pete shoots him a wide, toothy smile.

“Are you busy, Oreo?” He asks, leaning over to take a look at the blueprint Frank is working on. It’s just a bunch of lines and angles right now, but Pete coos like he’s observing the gold trimmings of the Palace of Versailles or something.

“Um, yeah,” Frank says, pointing at his work and letting out a small chuckle that starts off pathetic and trails off even more pathetically.

“Too busy for me?” Pete asks with a raised eyebrow. His eyes are dancing in the way that they do when he’s being particularly playful, and the grin pulling at the corners of his lips gives away his teasing. “I haven’t heard from you in a week and a half.”

Frank flounders for a bit as his brain decides to be as useless as possible (Tell him you were visiting Nakatomi Plaza; tell him you were at a Math Convention in San Francisco; tell him that Frank is gone forever and you’re his twin brother, Lorenzo Iero), before he finally manages to say, “I’ve just been—completely swamped at work.”

“Oh yeah?” Pete asks, and his eyebrows furrow a little in concern. “Are you working on a new project?”

“Yep,” Frank says and then falls silent.

“Okay,” Pete says slowly before perking back up and shooting Frank a look that’s decidedly hopeful. “Well, I’m sure you can use a break. Come on, I’ll treat you to lunch.”

“I don’t know,” Frank says, even though he can feel himself wavering. This week and a half has been surprisingly quiet and empty; Frank never realized how many hours a week he spent either talking to Pete or hanging out with Pete. And then suddenly, he was avoiding Pete and was rudely reminded again of the fact that there are actually twenty-four hours in a day, and that work can only take up so many hours of a day, and sleep can only chip away at so many hours in a day as well, before he’s left to sit alone on his couch and think about Pete’s rants on the failings of the last season of Game of Thrones.

“Come on, Oreo,” Pete wheedles. “You can order anything you want. You can even order your stupidly expensive mango ginger smoothies.”

Frank sighs before nodding. “Okay, sure. Just let me finish this up real quick, okay?”

Pete shoots him a wide, pleased smile. “I’ll wait for you downstairs.”

Frank watches him walk away and then drops his face into his hands and groans with much emotion.

“Who was that?” Daryl asks, suddenly popping up beside Frank’s shoulder.

“Jesus fuck, Daryl!” Frank yelps.


-x-


Conversation flows easily enough between the two of them over vegan crepes and mini deep dish pizzas. Pete’s always been easy to talk to though; they once spent an hour discussing Adam Scott’s acting career, and neither of them even feel that strongly for Adam Scott.

“So,” Frank says, once it becomes clear that he can’t avoid this topic any longer without either being a complete asshole or completely giving himself away, “how did your date go? I don’t have to punch anyone in the nuts, do I?”

Pete laughs. “Well, I mean, the waiter at the restaurant got my order wrong, so maybe you want to go and defend my honour there?”

“Give me the name of the restaurant and the waiter; his nuts are going down.”

Pete lets out another laugh before shaking his head. "That'll teach him. But no, Tor was—Tor was nice.”

“Tor the waiter?” Frank asks, acting deliberately obtuse even though the name is already echoing in his head. He might as well get familiar with it; Tor could potentially very well become Pete’s forever partner.

“No. Um—Tor my date.”

Frank – having all the evasive tactics in the book memorized to the T – proceeds to slowly cut up his crepe into even smaller pieces in order to avoid having to meet Pete’s eyes. “Did you just go out with him the one time?”

“Uh, no. We also met up for coffee two days ago? It was nice. Tor’s nice.”

“You deserve nice,” Frank says. Even though he says it to his vegan crepe, he means it with all his heart; nice is the very least that Pete deserves. No one who collects snow globes and has approximately a hundred weird-ass mugs and loves Oscar Wilde with such a burning passion deserves anything less than fucking ‘nice’. “Are you—is this getting serious?”

“I don’t know. It’s just been a week, you know?” Pete says, before a warm hand is gently encasing Frank’s wrist. “Hey, are you okay?”

When Frank looks up, Pete is watching him with an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face. His eyebrows are furrowed and his brown eyes are flickering all over Frank’s face as if whatever’s ailing Frank would just be imprinted straight on his cheek or something.

“Did something happen at work?” Pete asks. “Did you just find out that being good at math automatically makes you a nerd? I could have told you that years ago, Oreo.”

“Fuck off,” Frank says. “At least I’ll be a nerd who can deal with my own taxes.”

Pete laughs lightly. “Well, God had to give you an edge somehow. But seriously, is everything okay?”

“I just—I’ve been thinking,” Frank says, and he really has. It’s been a long, drawn-out week of general solitude punctuated only by moments of work-frenzy and blessed unconsciousness. He even evaded five of Mikey’s phone calls, twenty-two of Gerard’s (Gerard can be a persistent motherfucker), and three of Ray’s, and he usually never evades his friends’ calls (mainly because he likes hearing from Gerard, Ray only calls him if it’s an emergency, and avoiding Mikey’s calls will most likely end in his death; Frank is actually still waiting for Mikey to leap out of nowhere and strangle him with an old-fashioned phone cord for his impudence). Pete leans forward, all wide eyes and genuine concern, and Frank swallows heavily before mustering through. “I think we should probably stop—um, sleeping with each other.”

“What?” Pete asks. The corner of his lip is twitching downward. “Why?”

“Your—relationship with Tor can turn into something serious, man,” Frank says, channeling his inner Mikey and doing his best to sound levelheaded and calm. “You shouldn’t—half-ass it, you know? I think if you like the guy, you should give it your all. And—I mean, if it does get serious, then this is bound of end anyway, right?”

“Frank, I don’t even know if what I have with Tor is going to be anything serious,” Pete says. “We’ve just met up with each other twice. And even if we did have to end this, it really wouldn’t be for a while yet.”

“I just think it’s for the best,” Frank says firmly. Pete falls back against his seat and blinks at Frank. His dark lashes fan out against the olive-brushed skin of his cheek. Frank already misses him something fierce. “I don’t want to hold you back from finding the one, you know?”

“You’re not holding me back from anything,” Pete says, fast and harsh. “I’ll find the one when I find the one; there’s no rush.”

“Pete,” Frank says. “I just—I want to end this.”

And he really hopes that Pete won’t continue pursuing this, because if he does, Frank isn’t completely sure that he’ll be able to continue saying no. He wants to spend however many days he has left before Tor and Pete figure out the whole issue of relationship statuses and exclusivity with Pete. He wants to go through Pete’s snow globe collection with him one more time and listen to him gush over every single one, even the terrifying It one. He wants to get into one last heated debate with Pete over whether The Office is better, or whether the title of Best Mockumentary Television Series belongs to Parks and Recreation instead. He wants to lean over the table and kiss Pete and be kissed by him in return. He just wants to be with Pete, but he can’t.

“Fine,” Pete says. His voice is low and quiet. He takes out his dark teal wallet and pulls out a wad of cash. Without even counting it, he places the lot onto the table and slides out of his seat. “I’ll see you around.”

And then he’s walking away.

Frank breathes in and out. Somehow, even though they hadn’t really been dating, this break up hurts more than when he got dumped over vegan calzones and Capri Sun juice pouches for a fucking rugby player.

Franks rubs at his chest and closes his eyes and just sits there until the waiter comes by to ask him if the food is okay.


-x-


Gerard – who is sweet and kind but ultimately fucking crazy – takes him out for ice cream two days later.

Frank is doing his best to not cry frozen tears onto his vanilla bean coconut milk ice cream while Gerard is happily munching on his Super Kid next to him. Even the ducks drifting around in the half-frozen lake seem to be watching them with judgemental eyes; why the fuck are there two humans sitting on a snowy bench and eating goddamn ice cream in the tail end of January? God, if Frank knew, he would be telling the ducks all about it.

“God, there’s really nothing better than eating ice cream during the winter,” Gerard says. He has a speck of ice cream decorating the tip of his nose, but because it’s so goddamn cold outside, the ice cream isn’t even melting against his skin. Instead, it just stays caked on to the tip of Gerard’s pointed nose, frozen solid and almost offensively neon blue.

“There isn’t?” Frank manages to squeak out. He’s finished about half of his ice cream out of sheer stubbornness alone, but he’s really not looking forward to having to eat the rest.  

“It just makes you feel cold on the inside, you know?” Gerard says. He eats another spoonful of his Super Kid. “It allows you to really become one with the winter. The icy coldness spreading inside of you reflects the icy coldness surrounding you; it’s fucking poetic.”

Frank stares at Gerard in silence for a few moments. Gerard just continues munching away, smiling lightly at the ducks who Frank is starting to really feel bad for.

“Are you sure that Patrick agreed to marry you, Gee?” Frank finally asks. “Are you sure it wasn’t just a beautiful fever dream caused by all the paint fumes you inhale on a daily basis?”

“Nope,” Gerard says, smacking his lips and not sounding the least bit offended. “He handed me my cup of coffee this morning and said ‘for you, fiancé’, so I’m pretty sure this is something that’s really happening.”

“Maybe that was a hallucination as well,” Frank mutters. He braves another bite of his ice cream and is immediately filled with Intense Regret.

It’s as Frank is doing his best to choke down the frigid block of coconut ice down his throat that Gerard chooses to say, in the gentlest way possible, “So, none of us have heard from you in a while, Frankie.”

Well, at least Frank has his frozen esophagus to blame for his weak and watery sounding voice.

“Yeah—I, Jesus fuck that’s cold,” Frank wheezes out before clearing his throat and avoiding having to answer by asking instead, “How mad is Mikey?”

“He’s not mad; he’s just worried at this point,” Gerard says. Gerard’s always the talent of saying things in the most non-confrontational way possible but somehow making his words extra punchy and guilt-inducing due to the lack of confrontation in his tone. He’s gentle in his vocal delivery, and his words aren’t particularly sharp either, but Frank still kind of feels like a generally shitty person. And, as if Gerard can sense the shame creeping up on Frank, he presses his shoulder against the younger man’s and says, “Don’t tell him I told you though. You know Mikey’s always gotta maintain his stoic image and powerful persona.”

Frank lets out a small laugh. “Yeah. I wouldn’t dream of it.”

They fall into silence, staring out at the half-solidified lake that’s set alight into sparkling diamonds by the mid-morning sun, just pressed shoulder-to-shoulder and breathing in sync together. It’s calm and peaceful; Frank’s missed this slow and languid feeling, even though he’s positive that half the reason he’s feeling so sluggish is because his body can no longer withstand the cold and is slowly shutting down.

“Do you want to talk about it, Frankie?” Gerard finally asks, breaking the tranquility and saving Frank from falling asleep in minus thirty degrees weather.

Frank breathes in and lets out a huff of air, watching the white puff of smoke escape from his mouth in a light tendril and dissipate just as quickly. “Yeah, I’m not sure I do, Gee.”

“That’s alright,” Gerard says. One of his argyle-patterned, mitted hands (no doubt Patrick’s influence) is placed gently on Frank’s knee. “Take things at your own pace. You know you can reach out to any of us, whenever you want, if you want to talk.”

“I know, Gee,” Frank says, shooting Gerard a small but genuine smile. “I just feel like I have to figure this one out on my own, you know? I mean, I’ve bothered the three of you enough with this.”

“It’s no bother, Frankie,” Gerard says. His earnest look is somewhat undercut by the neon blue patch of ice cream still dotting the tip of his nose, but Frank appreciates the sentiment. “But I get it. Sometimes you have to work things out yourself; just remember that you can reach out to us whenever you want. You don’t even have to tell us anything; we can just grab a pizza and do some finger painting if that’s what you want.”

Frank lets out a loose laugh. “You’re sweet, Gee,” he says, covering Gerard’s mitted hands with his own. “I’ll make sure to call you if I ever get one of those common and reoccurring urges to paint using my fingers.”

Gerard shoots Frank a lopsided smile, the one that pulls at only one corner of his lips, the one that Frank loved with a desperate passion once upon a time, and that thought makes things a little easier to bear. Frank was madly in love with Gerard at one point, but he got through the heartbreak of loving Gerard one-sidedly. His unreciprocated love didn’t even destroy their friendship – they’re as close as ever, and Frank is genuinely thrilled for Gerard at having found Patrick. It’ll get better. It’s just going to suck for a little while.

“Okay, finish up your ice cream so we can head back indoors,” Gerard says, shoveling another spoonful of yellow, red, and blue monstrosity in his mouth.

Frank looks down at his own cup of ice cream. The spoon sticking up in his ice cold treat seems to twinkle up at him as if to say “don’t you want to use me to shovel more of this buck-ass freezing delight down your already half-frozen throat?” Frank looks back up at Gerard.

“Can we just go back inside and skip the ice cream?”


-x-


Frank doesn’t hear from Pete for the next two weeks which—well, it kind of really sucks.

It mainly sucks because Frank didn’t even consider the fact that breaking off the physical aspect of his relationship with Pete might mean breaking off any kind of relationship with the older man at all, so Frank is kind of feeling like he’s lost both a lover and a really good friend at the same time. It’s like a double-whammy sadness punch, like when you order a milkshake and you receive two cherries on top of the whip cream instead of just one. But a sad version of that.

Everything reminds him of Pete, which really doesn’t help with the Moving On Situation or the Stop Feeling So Blue Situation. Seeing a book reminds Frank that Pete was an English Literature major; pretty much all Nintendo characters are forever linked to Pete in Frank’s mind now; he saw an ad for Oreo cookies on YouTube and had to take an actual breather; one of his coworkers was telling him about the foxes that have been digging around in her backyard, and Frank was immediately reminded of the word ‘ox’, which lead to him thinking about the word ‘onomatopoeia’, which then lead him to the word ‘abominable’, which then lead to him excusing himself so that he could stare morosely down at his half-finished blueprints.

He just really misses Pete.

He ended up trekking to a Barnes & Noble so that he could purchase a copy of The Importance of Being Earnest which just shows how much he misses him. He might not have Pete’s terrible British accent to keep him company, but he does have the words that Pete loves, so maybe that will be enough.

He’s in the process of slowly perusing through his copy of Oscar Wilde’s play – reading all about how Miss Prism ended up leaving baby Jack in a handbag and a manuscript in a perambulator (a perambulator) – when a knock sounds on his door.

It turns out to be Patrick, bundled up in a dark brown jacket, pale orange scarf, and signature trucker hat. Frank’s grip on the door immediately tightens; he’s not entirely sure if he’s dealing with Affable Friend Patrick right now, or Mob Boss Patrick, and he’s only dressed in his Ultraman pajama bottoms and Guns N’ Roses pullover. Affable Friend Patrick might find his ratty look charming, but Mob Boss Patrick will probably just shake him for loose change and to hear him squeal.

“Hey,” Patrick says with a small but friendly smile. Frank immediately relaxes a smidge. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, of course,” Frank says, opening the door wider and moving to the side to allow the younger man entrance. “I’m sorry for the mess, man.”

“Frank,” Patrick says, turning around to shoot Frank a dry look. “I’m engaged to Gerard, and you and I both know that you’re positively fastidious compared to him.”

“So you actually are engaged to Gee,” Frank says with a grin. He leads Patrick towards the living room as Sweetpea trots out slowly from the bedroom in order to see who their guest is. “It’s not just a very vivid fever dream then.”

“Nope, I actually am engaged to the man,” Patrick says, shedding off his coat to reveal a cozy looking cross-stitched sweater underneath and taking a seat on the couch. Sweetpea comes closer and Patrick smiles, leaning down to offer the old dog a gentle scratch behind the ears. “Hey buddy.”

“I hope you don’t end up regretting it,” Frank says, purely teasing. Gerard is great (even with his bizarre love of ice cream in the dead of the winter) and he and Patrick will be so happy together.

Patrick laughs as Frank picks up Sweetpea, placing her on his lap and smiling at the way she just flops over, sweet and pliant. “It’s all good as long as I ignore the general stench.”

“Yeah that’s pretty much how it is with Gee,” Frank says with a grin. He continues gently stroking Sweetpea’s flank, and Patrick just watches them for a moment – quiet and contemplative – before he speaks up.

“Pete really misses you,” is what he says. Frank freezes for a second before he resumes petting Sweetpea. His throat feels tight and he really doesn’t know what to say. Or, rather, he has so much that he wants to say but can’t, because everything that he wants to say he wants to say to Pete and not Patrick. So he doesn’t say anything at all and just focuses on the steady rise and fall of Sweetpea’s sides.

“I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t think that you miss him too,” Patrick adds after a moment. His voice is gentle and oddly understanding.

“Did Gee tell you?” Frank finally asks. His hand is still gently running through the curly strands of Sweetpea’s fur; the rhythmic motion relaxes him, and the warm and steady weight of his dog on his lap acts as a kind of anchor, keeping him tethered to this moment and preventing him from simply floating away like a hot air balloon.

“He definitely mentioned something about you being sad,” Patrick says, before nodding towards Frank’s coffee table. “But it’s really the copy you have of The Importance of Being Earnest that convinced me.”

“It’s a good play,” Frank says for a lack of anything else to say.

“It’s Pete’s favourite.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re Pete’s favourite, you know?” Patrick says.

Frank lets out a little, hollow laugh. “Nah, man. We both know you’re the owner of that prestigious title.”

“Frank,” Patrick says, brushing away Frank’s comment. “What the hell are you doing, man?”

“What do you mean?” Frank asks. Sweetpea chooses now to slither off his lap in a jiggly pile of curly fur and flabs of fat, and Frank watches – feeling just the slightest bit betrayed and abandoned – as his dog trots away from him and heads towards the kitchen.

“Why the hell did you end things with Pete?” Patrick asks. “I know we had that conversation before where you told me that you didn’t actually want to be with Pete, but clearly something changed. You wouldn’t have dropped off the face of the world for two weeks and sequestered yourself in your apartment with only Oscar Wilde’s play otherwise.”

“I don’t know. I—” Frank breaks off. It all made so much sense in his head before, everything did. It made sense to not want to enter into an actual relationship with Pete, and it made sense to break things off with him as well. All the reasons he had for doing both those things seemed so obvious, but now – completely broken off from Pete – it all seems so inconsequential. “I’m sure you know this, but Pete told me about his fear of never finding the person he’s supposed to spend the rest of his life with,” Frank says, slowly because he wants to make sure everything he says comes out exactly how he means it to. “Before I could get my shit together, he got asked out by someone, and it just got me thinking that maybe—I don’t know, that Pete might be the person I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life with, but I’m not his. Maybe his person is still out there, and I’m just—I’m just.” Frank trails off and stares at his copy of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Patrick heaves a sigh. “Okay. I’m not going to tell you that there’s one perfect person out there in the world for you. I don’t believe in soulmates; I’ll let Gerard fill your head with that nonsense.”

“Okay. Wow,” Frank says, blinking at Patrick who doesn’t even slow down.

“The thing is, you’re right: Pete can very easily find someone else who he’ll fall madly in love with and who will love him back, and you’re going to find other people besides Pete who you'll want to be with as well. But why wait for this hypothetical potential maybe to come along when the two of you want to be together now? Pete misses you like crazy, and if you miss him even half as much as he misses you, then every second you’re not with him is a waste. Don’t clip your wings before you’ve even started to fly, man. There’s no perfect, meant-to-be couple out there – there’s just people who choose to love and be with each other every single day.”

Frank’s mouth feels like the goddamn Sahara Desert.

“He’s dating Tor,” he manages to croak out after a long while. Patrick’s blue-green eyes flash behind his black-framed glasses, and a vaguely amused smile pulls at the corners of his lips.

“Trust me, he’s not,” Patrick says wryly. “And, if he is, he’s being a really crap boyfriend because he’s pretty much spent the entire past two weeks wrapped around either me, or Joe, or Andy. Sometimes he wraps himself around all three of us at the exact same time. Joe was threatening decapitation just yesterday.”

“He’s not dating anyone?” Frank asks. Something is buoying up in his chest.

“No,” Patrick says. His smile is kind. “What the hell are you going to do about it?”


-x-


This time Frank doesn’t bother standing outside in the street corner; he doesn’t waste any time staring at Pete’s neon green curtains or Crassula Umbella plant and wishing that he was in there with him. Instead, he marches right up to the front door of the low-rise apartment, awkwardly waits there for the security guard to come back from his coffee break, recognize him and let him in, and then walks all the way up to Pete’s front door.

He knocks on Pete’s door before he can overthink things. He wants to be with Pete, and Pete missed him like crazy for the past two weeks. It’s really that simple.

Pete is wearing a Queen pullover and low-hanging, grey sweatpants when he opens the door. His blonde hair is all mussed up and there’s a pillow indent on his left cheek. He’s wearing mismatched socks (one is of Stitch and the other is of Michael Myers). He looks surprised and then hesitant at seeing Frank standing outside in his apartment corridor.

“I’ve been fucking miserable without you,” Frank says before Pete can say anything. Pete’s mouth drops open – just the slightest bit – at Frank’s rushed but honest confession, and Frank just continues. It’s time to speak without thinking; make an honest man out of Mikey Way and just speak without thinking. “I’ve been drifting around like a goddamn ghoul without you. I’m pretty sure my neighbours think I’ve fallen in with a cult or something, and my coworkers are this close to staging an intervention for me. Mikey texted me yesterday just to ask me how I’m doing. Mikey. I’ve been—I’ve been a fucking idiot about this whole thing. I’ve been slow on the uptake, and I’ve—ham-fisted this entire thing, I know. But I want to be with you, and not just in the ‘you’re hot as hell, let’s fuck’ kind of way. I want you to read The Importance of Being Earnest out loud to me every night. I want to go to the snow globe shop and go snow globe hunting with you, or – I don’t know – we can do it online? I’m not sure where you get all those snow globes, to be honest. I want to watch Die Hard with you and explain every excruciating detail and behind-the-scenes moment to you until you threaten to throttle me. I want to listen to you complain about your work, and I want you to listen to me complain about mine as well, because working for a living is fucking disgusting. I really want to win the lottery as well, but only if I’m winning it with you. Okay, maybe not only if it’s with you. But it’d be much better if it was with you. I want to take you out on a date, Pete. And then I want to keep taking you out. Over and over again. I want us to be so mushy together that Mikey threatens to drown us every time he sees us.” Frank pauses and takes in a deep breath. “I want to be with you.”

“Wow, Oreo. That’s a lot of wishes,” Pete says, but his lips are quirking upwards, and his brown eyes are alight with something that’s more than just the hallway lighting.

“I’m a needy son of a bitch,” Frank says, a slow smile stretching out across his face in response to the lightness playing out on Pete’s face. “But I know it’s a lot. If you—if you agree to this, you can safeword out. Whenever you want.”

“Abominiminable?” Pete asks with a teasing lilt in his voice.

“I thought we settled for ‘ox’,” Frank says. Pete laughs lightly, eyes flickering quickly towards his socked feet before he lifts his gaze to meet Frank’s again.

“I thought you were trying to gently let me down when you were telling me that you didn’t want to be the reason that I end up missing out on the one,” Pete says. His usual boisterous voice is surprisingly small. Frank can only shrug.

“I just don’t want to end up being something that you regret, you know?”

“Can’t regret anything if there isn’t anything to regret in the first place,” Pete says, though a flash of understanding begins blossoming across his face.

“I know,” Frank says, letting out a small chuckle. “Patrick came and knocked some sense into me.”

Pete’s dark eyebrows raise towards his hairline. “Patrick did?”

“Yeah,” Frank says. “He was really nice about it too, which just proves how pathetic I must have looked.”

“I don’t know,” Pete says with a small smile. “I think you look pretty good. Good enough that – I’m pretty sure – anyone would say yes to a date with you.”

Frank laughs and steps closer to Pete. He’s floating. He’s a goddamn cloud, and he’s floating so high in the sky. “Do you want to go out with me?”

Pete’s small smile transforms into a full-blown grin. His hands reach out to tug lightly at the lapels of Frank’s black coat. “My schedule’s pretty packed, but I’m sure I can squeeze you in somewhere.”

Frank grins toothily and rests his hands on Pete’s waist. “Make sure it’s soon; this is an emergency.”

Something clatters from the apartment across from them, but Pete just continues smiling at him. “Do you want to come in? I think we’re giving Mrs. Collins a free show, and – I mean – we haven’t really discussed exhibitionism yet.”

“It’s important to talk kinks through, even with third party members,” Frank says, mock-seriously, before he lets out a barking laugh. “Becoming a Kink Aware Therapist.”

Pete just laughs in return, and drags him into his apartment.


-x-


“Stop that. Jesus fucking Christ. Stop doing that,” Mikey says, lobbing one of the cushions they haven’t packed into the cardboard boxes yet at Frank and Pete.

Frank pulls away from Pete with a giggle. Pete’s laughing too, pressing his face against the crook of Frank’s neck and pressing a gentle kiss on the thin skin there.

“I can fucking see you gnawing on his neck, Pete,” Mikey says, leaning down to pick up the cushion again before lobbing it at two of them once more with extra force. “Stop it.”

“Alright, alright,” Frank says, pressing one last kiss to Pete’s lips before gently pushing his boyfriend away. “If Mikey has to repeat himself one more time, he’s going to kill us.”

“At least we’ll die happy,” Pete says with a wink. He turns around and begins walking towards the kitchen where Gerard, Joe, and Patrick are all doing their best to pack away as many of Gerard’s dishes, kitchen utensils, and various eclectic knickknacks into the moving boxes. Pete is clearly sashaying his hips unnecessarily dramatically, knowing full well that Frank – weak, horny, little man as he is – will be staring at his ass. As if to prove that point, Pete turns around to shoot Frank one last sultry glance from under his eyelashes before ducking into the kitchen with a loud, honking laugh.

Frank does his best to think about naked and writhing Wario and Waluigi, and also of the fact that if he pops a semi while in the same room as Mikey, Mikey will actually decapitate him.

“The two of you are disgusting,” Mikey says, stuffing his cushion-turned-weapon into one of the cardboard boxes way more aggressively than need be before sealing it up with tape, but – when he straightens up – he shoots Frank a small smile. “I’m glad that you guys figured it out, though.”

Frank laughs and says with a small headshake, “It’s only because you meddled.”

“Damn straight,” Mikey says before leaning over and clapping Frank almost painfully hard on the back. “But still, I’m happy for you.”

Frank smiles and does his best to hold in his startled yelp. Must not show weakness in front of the devil.

“So,” he says, partially as payback and partially to distract himself from the throbbing ache emanating from where Mikey had attempted to fucking pound his soul out of him via back, “Our four month anniversary is coming up, and I’m thinking of buying lingerie for Pete. What colour do you—”

“Fuck you,” Mikey says with much emotion before placing down his roll of tape and literally just walking out of the house. Frank can see him tromping down the street from the window in the living room, pushing past Ray and Andy who are moving some of the boxes into Andy’s pickup truck, and he laughs, bright and loud and so, so happy. Ray is calling out after Mikey. Andy is just diligently packing away.

“What did you do?” Pete asks, appearing beside Frank and sliding his arms around the younger man’s waist in a warm embrace. “Where’s Mikey going?”

Frank laughs again, pressing a lingering kiss against Pete’s temple. “He got overwhelmed when I started talking about the anniversary plans I have in store for you.”

“No fair!” Pete playfully whines. “Why does Mikey get to know but I don’t?”

“Shut up. What are you, five?” Frank says, pressing a firm kiss against Pete’s lips. He can feel Pete smiling against him and his chest glows warm, utterly warm. Like he’s got Mount Doom growing where his heart and lungs are or something. “You’ll like what I have planned. I promise.”

“Yeah,” Pete says. “Okay.” Then he’s leaning in and properly kissing Frank, and Frank kisses back.

Because he’s Pete’s, and Pete’s his.

It’s just that simple, really.