Summary: Frank has a sex dream about Mikey. Hijinx ensue.
Fandom: My Chemical Romance
Warnings: Past drug abuse, language.
Original Story: Anti-Sex, by cimness
Notes: ~6,500 words.
The first time Frank ever really talked to Mikey's brother it was at a house party somewhere in the shitty part of the Oranges. Before that, Gerard was just Mikey's weird older brother. In Frank's mind, their interactions were always relative to Mikey, spinning out from him, Mikey first, Gerard a trailing but connected afterthought. At that party, though, Mikey's brother was a little buzzed and cheerful with it, talking with a charisma and charm Frank hadn't seen before.
They argued about music and, weirdly, politics, because Frank hadn't voted and Mikey's brother thought that was a crime. Frank didn't even know how they'd gotten on that subject but he did know that when he said, "The two parties are bullshit because it's not like either of them even represent me," and Mikey's brother threw out his hand in an elegant, dismissive gesture, cigarette caught between two fingers and then brought it to his lips, Frank suddenly and desperately wanted to be the smoke Gerard was sucking into his mouth. This was before a lot of things, before Frank knew anything about their band, before he knew anything about the guy Gerard had been dating for years, before he knew all the ways their lives were going to intersect. He felt the hot flare of attraction as a tightening of nerves, scalp prickling and fingers itching.
Gerard was saying something about obvious evil, and Frank put up his hands and then leaned in a little, giving his best smile. "Hey, you bring me my voter's registration, I swear I'll turn it in."
"You're not even registered to vote?" Gerard said, and brought a hand up to run his pinky across his eyebrow like it was all just too much, and Frank laughed. Gerard smiled then, looking surprised and pleased, and it was a good look on him. "Hey, maybe I will," he said.
Frank was going to follow that up with something about how maybe they should exchange numbers or something so Gerard could track him down, but what came out instead was, "Hey, you're Mikey's brother, right?" and Gerard's smile changed at that in a way Frank couldn't classify.
"Yeah," Gerard said. "I'm Gerard." He held his hand out like it was automatic.
"Yeah, I know," Frank said, and shook Gerard's hand. "I'm Frank."
"I know," Gerard said, and they both laughed.
"I guess our reputations -" Frank said, then Gerard's boyfriend came up behind Gerard and put both hands on his shoulders and Frank stopped talking. The guy was probably six-foot tall and intimidating with it, arty in a way Gerard wasn't, and striking. He had a long black coat on with a huge fake fur collar, dyed black hair, plucked eyebrows, and precise black eyeliner. Frank felt outclassed just standing near him.
"Joe, hey," Gerard said, his entire face lightening. He turned toward him and they kissed briefly, and then Gerard turned back to Frank. "This is Frank," he said. "We just met."
"Hey." Frank raised a hand.
"Joe Boyle," Joe said, and he was charming too. It was deeply unfair. They talked a little longer, the three of them, and Frank beat a hasty retreat.
Every time after that when he saw Gerard it was in Mikey's company, and he said hi to Gerard second but looked at him first. He couldn't help it. But Gerard still had a boyfriend and then they both had a band. After that, it seemed natural that Gerard would always be the center of any room even when he wasn't, and Frank mostly forgot it had ever been any different.
Frank woke up suddenly and with a sense of great relief.
His dog grinned down at him from the picture he'd taped up on the ceiling of his bunk to the left of the mini-DVD-player, and that meant he'd been asleep.
Wow, he thought. Wow he was glad that wasn't real.
The embarrassing thing was that the sex had actually been pretty good. He could remember liking it. In the dim light of day, it made him feel guilty and unsettled, even though everyone knew dreams didn't mean shit.
The bus was quiet around him, no voices and no movement, which probably meant they were already parked and everyone else had fled, and only Frank was left behind sleeping the day away.
Mornings were usually bad for Frank. He was perpetually congested, which meant that he had a sinus headache for the first hour until he'd knocked everything loose. This time, there wasn't even any coffee ready. The empty coffee pot had been abandoned in the sink in the dirty kitchenette. A sad inch of coffee sloshed in one corner. Once upon a time, Mikey used to make Frank a cup of coffee almost every morning, but this time around on Warped Pete Wentz had stolen all of Mikey's time and probably his coffee-making skills, leaving Frank bereft.
"Wurgh," Frank said to himself, because thinking about Mikey made him think about his dream. "Ughhhhhhhh." Where they'd been all...naked. And even though Mikey hadn't really looked at all like Mikey, more like just a long, lean body with brown hair and glasses (even though Frank had never in his life had sex with someone who kept their glasses on, except dream-Mikey), Frank had known in the dream that it was Mikey and that he wanted to rub up against him. Jeez, he felt disgusted just thinking about it.
Gerard had left a piece of paper on the table with a doodle of a vampire holding up a sign that read: "Hey Frank! Ray and I and some of the guys went to go get lunch. Meet us there if you wake up in time. --XOXO G" It was typical of Gerard's thoughtfulness on this tour, like he had a lot of attention to spare now, and he was going to spend it all on making sure no one in his band felt neglected or alone.
Frank appreciated it, though. Even though it was nothing special.
Ray and Gerard were eating together at a table in a prime spot underneath a tree when he got to craft services, still squinting and stumbling against the sun. As always, the tables were set up cafeteria-style. Frank hated it because of the way it made him remember the social torture of high school. Luckily, he was in a band filled with fellow losers. They always saved a seat, or made one. In this case, Worm was leaving right when he got over there with his plate filled with boiled green beans, mashed potatoes, and a tragic salad.
"Hey, Frank," Gerard said, giving him a smile when he sat down.
"Hey," Frank said. As an afterthought, he said, "Hey, Ray."
"Hey kiddo," Ray said. Ray was in a phase.
Frank made a face at him, then took a bite of his mashed potatoes and made a different face. "Dude, I need coffee," Frank said.
"Fuck yeah," Gerard said. "You wanna go? We could go. There must be a strip mall with a Starbucks around somewhere."
"That was a lot of words," Frank said. "Maybe you don't need coffee."
"Coffee is a basic right. Hi," Gerard said. He said it forthright, too, like he was introducing Frank to a new fact. It made Frank laugh.
"When are we playing?"
"Not until late," Ray said. "Second-to-last slot."
"Thank god," Gerard added. "And we got a TV interview at 4:30."
"Sweet," Frank said.
"So. You know. Plenty of time for coffee. Iced coffee," Gerard said dreamily.
He had his face tilted up slightly toward the sky and his eyes closed behind his sunglasses, his hair a clean rats-nest, and it made Frank's insides clench in a familiar pang of affection. Then the dream flashed through Frank's mind again, and the bottom falling out of his stomach hit the ground with a thud. Ugh, Frank thought, and shuddered. Forget, forget, forget.
"I'm heading back," Ray said. "I've got a, yeah. Song thingy."
"Is that the technical term?" Frank asked, because he was kind of a shit. Ray scrubbed his hand through Frank's hair as he left, pushing Frank's bangs forward over his eyes, because Ray was kind of a shit too, and then Frank was left with Gerard.
"All right, I'm done," he said, pushing his plate away. "Let's go."
Within the band, usually Frank hung out with Mikey a lot. It was just the way they rolled. Ray and Gerard cheerfully coexisted in creative communion, Mikey and Gerard bonded a lot, and Bob hung out almost equally with everyone. This tour was weird, though. This Warped, Mikey was entirely wrapped up in Pete, and Ray was off in music heaven in their portable studio. Bob could only tolerate a certain amount of time before he had to go find someplace where people wouldn't talk to him, so Frank kept finding himself alone with Gerard.
Right now, Gerard was working his way slantwise through the lot of parked cars toward the loaner one of their roadies let them borrow, and Frank was following after him, making a game out of trying to follow in his footsteps in the dirt. Gerard hadn't noticed yet, but then he stopped short in front of a dusty red coup with a taped-on bumper and Frank ran right into him and had to grab onto his shoulder to keep from falling.
"Whoa, shit," Gerard said. "Sorry."
"My fault," Frank said.
"What were you doing, anyway?"
Frank grinned. "I wanna rub up against your body." He made like he was going to hump Gerard's leg, and Gerard said, "Oh, jeez," and then started walking again.
"Wait, why are you running away?" Frank said, and gave two hopping steps to catch up, knocking into Gerard and making him stagger sideways. Gerard gave Frank an injured look.
"Sorry," Frank said innocently.
"Man, you were one of those kids who pulled little girls' pigtails in elementary, weren't you," Gerard said.
"What?" Frank said, and then he said, "I was not."
"It's okay, Frank," Gerard said, leaning close so that his shoulder was pressed against Frank's and squinting into his eyes. "I'll hold your hand on the way to the soda fountain." His fingers fumbled against Frank's before latching on and interlacing. His hand was clammy and sweaty in the heat.
"I bet you've got cooties," Frank murmured, grinning.
"I'm getting them all over you," Gerard said cheerfully, and swung their linked hands as they walked. He was flirting. Frank was almost positive he was flirting, but it was always hard to tell with Gee. Time had warped the boundaries of their relationship until it couldn't be measured by the standards Frank held for the rest of the world. All he had to go by were his own instincts that were unreliably blinking at him that something was changing.
They held hands all the way to the car before Gerard let go to find the key.
The first time they ever kissed on stage it was almost a year after Frank joined the band. They were playing for a small show that was so tiny it almost didn't merit a stage, but nonetheless they were the second opener.
Some kid in the front row who was probably only there for the main act yelled out at them that they were "fucking faggots," and Gerard shouted something in the mic about did they want to see something really fucking gay? The crowd roared out a yes, because the crowd usually followed where Gerard led. Gerard swaggered over to where Frank was hunched over his guitar, and grabbed a chunk of Frank's sweat-soaked hair, hauled his head back and kissed him. It wasn't even a good kiss, in retrospect. Frank had been surprised, and Gerard hadn't bothered to line up too well, so Frank's nose got smashed into Gerard's cheek and the mic ground into his collarbone. But it felt powerful and painful, like a force of nature rushing through both of them. Gerard spun away and back to the front of the stage. When he spat out, "WAS THAT GAY ENOUGH FOR YOU?" the entire room went nuts.
It took Frank a solid thirty seconds before he got his act together and was able to follow Ray's playing. The entire rest of the show he could feel his lip, raw and painful where his teeth and Gerard's had ground into it, and he pushed his tongue against the abrasions until he tasted blood.
After the show Gerard came up to him, sheepish. "I didn't think you'd mind," he said. "It wasn't, like, planned or anything, sorry if it fucked you up."
"No, man, it was fine," Frank said. "I loved it. It felt like, you know, a good part of the show."
"I just think it's important," Gerard said. "If they're going to say that shit, I think we should fucking own it." He was still dressed in the wrinkled suit jacket he wore on stage, but he had changed back into everyday Gerard, a beer in one hand, a lit cigarette in the other, no longer a live wire. Still compelling, and Frank was nodding before he even realized it.
"Yeah," he said. "Fuck yeah." He felt fiercely proud in that moment, that they had done this and were going to do it, that Gerard had picked him.
Gerard smiled at him, that uncertain, wonky grin. "Thanks," he said, and leaned close and brushed his mouth across Frank's. This kiss was everything the kiss on stage had not been. Friendly, gentle, platonic. Frank's lips tasted like beer when Gerard moved away.
Mikey was looking at him speculatively when Frank looked around, and when Frank shrugged at him, he shrugged back.
"Yo, My Chemical Mikey!" Frank called. "Let's go get wasted."
"Right on," Mikey said.
They got back from the Starbucks with hours of time to kill. The sun was swelteringly hot overhead, like it would be until fully four-thirty, and Frank felt himself starting to wilt as quickly as his slushy iced coffee was melting in its plastic cup. Gerard got sidetracked by a friend of a friend from New York, but Frank headed straight back to the bus. It was cool and dark and delightful, and wonder of wonders, Mikey was there.
"Hey, Mikeyway!" Frank said, and slammed down next to him on the couch. Mikey made an absent murmur that could have been a hello, or maybe just a noise of interest at whatever he was looking at on his phone, but then he turned and smiled at Frank.
"It is hotter than fuck out there," Frank said.
"Welcome to Warped," Mikey said.
"I don't know how anyone lives in the Midwest," Frank said and took another sip of his drink. Mikey's eyes latched on immediately. Frank sighed and handed it over. "Just a sip, dude," he said when Mikey kept drinking. "Dude!"
"Mmmmm," Mikey said when he finally handed it back, and then he squinted his eyes, muttering, "cold headache, cold headache," while Frank snorted with laughter.
"You're such a shit," Frank said. "You deserved that. Hey, what are your plans for the afternoon?"
"I dunno, I think Pete's got something planned," Mikey said. He waved his phone. "He's being all cryptic."
"Shocker," Frank said. "Let me know if you're doing something cool, all right?" He got up and threw out his empty drink cup, then sat down at the kitchenette. It was too hot for anyone sane to consider leaving the bus yet, though Mikey obviously was.
"Okay," Mikey said. He added honestly, "We probably won't be," and Frank shrugged. Pete and Mikey were in the stage where they mostly just hung around and said stupid stuff to each other that no one else found witty, and made out feverishly, which meant that Mikey was probably right.
He thought, Mikeyway, you falling in love is really being a downer on my Warped experience, but it wasn't really. Bob would prank other buses with him and play videogames, and Gerard would talk about weird shit and play cards with him and was his mealtime buddy. Frank just missed his best friend.
Mikey was already picking stuff up from where he'd scattered it during his brief stay: his keys from the table, his ID tag and phone from the counter, his hoodie from the floor. Frank wanted to stop him, wanted to say, stop leaving me alone with your brother, because it's making me want to do stuff. Stuff that will complicate shit.
He said, "Dude, I had a sex dream about you last night," and then felt his face heat up. It wasn't the most embarrassing thing he'd ever said to Mikey, because that honor was unfortunately given to the time Frank had drunkenly slurred to Mikey that he had "such a boner for your brother, man, such a boner," which wouldn't have been so bad except that it had been a good year after Gerard and Frank had first met. Mikey had just looked at him expressionlessly and said, "He has a boyfriend," like Frank didn't know that.
But Frank hadn't actually meant to tell Mikey anything just now except, "See you around," so he was unprepared.
Mikey stopped, though, hoodie dangling from one hand like a dead skunk. He turned around and cocked his head, looking like he was trying to figure out if Frank was serious.
"Really?" he said.
"Yeah, I don't know," Frank said. "It was weird."
"Huh," Mikey said.
"How is this not grossing you out?" Frank asked, flailing his hands. "It grossed me out and my brain was the one who came up with it."
"I dunno," Mikey said, and then he grinned. "Was it good?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"I don't know, I just pride myself on being, you know. A good lay." He said it totally straight-faced, but then his lips quirked at the corners like he was trying not to laugh.
"Oh, man, stop talking to me." Frank lay back on the kitchenette booth's bench so that he couldn't see Mikey's stupid face. "I don't know why I even told you."
"Yeah, I don't know why you told me either," Mikey agreed. "I think it means you think I'm hot."
"It definitely doesn't mean that," Frank said. "Your ugly mug? Please."
"I had a sex dream about Ray once," Mikey said. "He turned into this awesome Medusa lady with snakeheads for hair, though, so I think it was mostly just about the hair."
"Oh man." Frank covered his eyes with his arm. "There were two pieces of information in there that I didn't need to know." He brought down his arm and pulled himself up over the table after a moment and said, "I'm telling Ray, though. It'll be awesome. He likes to pretend none of us even have sex."
"I already told him. It was epic," Mikey said. "He covered his hair with his hands for like five minutes."
"Ray," Frank said fondly, right as the bus door clanked open and Gerard clattered up the stairs.
"What about Ray?" Gerard said.
"He is a hilarious prude," Frank said.
Gerard blinked, and Mikey said, "Sex dream."
"Ohhh," Gerard said, like he already knew the whole deal.
"You tell Gerard your sex dreams?" Frank said to Mikey, and made a face.
"Whatever," Mikey said. "I'm not the one that had a sex dream about me."
Gerard was already settling across from Frank at the table and pulling his sketch pad toward him, but he looked up at that and gave Frank a wonky eyebrow. Frank rolled his eyes. Mikey's phone started playing and Mikey glanced at the screen before waving haphazardly at the room. "Pete's outside," he said, and wandered down the stairs.
Gerard started humming. He had his sunglasses pushed up on his head holding his hair back. Frank wanted to pull out the sunglasses and run his hands through Gerard's hair until he was cradling the bones of Gerard's skull in his palms, and then he thought maybe it would be nice if he kissed him, just briefly to test out the waters. Something nice and sweet, because too many of their kisses were fierce and for an audience.
The sad thing was that if Frank did that, if he put his fingers in Gerard's hair and his mouth on Gerard's lips, Gerard would probably just think it was nice that they were such good friends.
"You had a sex dream about Mikey?" Gerard said without looking up, and Frank stopped staring at Gerard's mouth.
"Not one that means I want to have sex with him," Frank said. "He's like a brother to me."
"That's probably good," Gerard said, though with a crease between his brows. "If you and Pete battled it out, I don't know who'd win."
"I would," Frank said. "I don't know why that's even a question. Wentz has no head for pain. One punch! Pow, he'd be out."
Gerard did look up then, and slid his sunglasses onto his nose to squint through them like Frank was some weird nature creature. "Frank," Gerard said. He pushed his sunglasses back up on his head again and stared deep into Frank's eyes. "Are you telling me you have a thing for pain?"
"Wanna spank me and see?" Frank said, and Gerard gave a surprised shout of laughter. He went back to drawing, but Frank thought he was blushing under the dim lighting and his tan. Gerard didn't say anything in response, though, and Frank tapped his fingertips on the table and thought about saying something else and didn't.
This was mostly what happened when Frank flirted deliberately with Gerard, like Gerard had no capacity for it, or wasn't interested. It's probably what would have happened all those years ago if Gerard's boyfriend hadn't shown up. In retrospect, Frank really would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when those two were getting together, because he'd never figured out how it could have happened. They'd lasted a good long time, though, until Gerard had killed the relationship with distance and drugs and alcohol. Gerard was even still friends with the guy.
In the end, Frank went back to his bunk and got his book instead. They didn't end up having much time alone in the front lounge anyway before a bunch of their crew piled on and started making a lot of noise.
Frank threw himself into the racket gratefully, and didn't resurface until much later.
When Frank looked back on everything, he was always ashamed of how much of Gerard he and the rest of the band had let slip away over the years before Gerard hit bottom. When Frank finally got to know Gerard he'd found a lot to love and a lot to admire about him, from his artistic drive, sweetness and integrity off stage to his fearlessness on it. But more and more of those qualities had disappeared into the black hole of Gerard's addictions, mostly without Frank noticing. After a while Frank only remembered with a feeling of disbelief how attractive Frank had found Gerard when they first met. Not that he didn't love him, Frank would have said in a heartbeat, gotta love the guy. But not in any sexual way.
It had been a revelation, then, to watch Gerard come back to himself. Early in their first tour after he got clean, they'd all crept around walking on eggshells, playing a lot of videogames and watching a lot of movies all together because it kept them on the bus and out of trouble. Gerard was spending most of his time with his cigarettes, sketchbook, and coffee, with a tense, taut look on his face like he was putting one foot in front of the other, walking across a tightrope. The last thing any of the rest of them wanted was to push him off-balance so he'd fall again. Frank still felt that way sometimes, even now that Gerard acted like that tightrope had become a bridge.
But back then, it had been new for everyone. Frank used to sit outside the bus with Ray late a night, leaning shoulder-to-shoulder as they smoked cigarettes and talked in low voices about how things were going that week. Then, one night, Frank said abruptly, "Fuck it, it's good. He's good."
Ray blew out a plume of smoke and said, "Fucking right he is," and after that if they ever met for a midnight smoke, they talked about cool guitar riffs to try and the next cool application Ray was getting for his computer.
When Frank went back inside, Gerard was seated at the table pulling the label off a bottle of water and half watching an episode of Justice League Unlimited.
"So how'm I doing, doc?" he asked as Frank walked by.
Frank stopped and turned around. "Why'd we be talking about you?" Frank asked, and quirked a smile. "Did you do something special?"
Gerard smiled crookedly at him, eyes clear and steady on his, and Frank felt his face warm up. He jerked his shoulder and stuffed his hands in his pockets, suddenly self-conscious.
"Thanks," Gerard said.
"No problem," Frank said.
That night after the show, one of the locals told Bob about a swimming hole only a few miles from the fairgrounds where Warped had made camp. Bob told the rest of the guys and Mikey told Pete, and then five different buses quietly got their people together for a midnight skinny-dipping raid. It felt like an actual raid, too, as Frank crouched down behind a car in the parking lot sandwiched between Bob and Worm. Gerard was on the other side of Bob, and when Frank looked over his eyes were open wide in the dark. Someone giggled and five people said, "Shhhhhhh!" making a louder noise than the original guy, and Frank snickered into Bob's sleeve.
"Idiots," Bob muttered. Frank bit Bob's shoulder through the fabric, earning a smack on the head and a restrained but still vehement, "Ow! Frank!"
Bob ended up in the driver's seat of their car, with Worm in the front passenger's seat. Frank found himself sprawled across Gerard's lap in the back with one leg slung over Mikey's thigh, and Pete pushed up against the other door. Gerard's arm was around his waist, his hand curled around Frank's hip, both a payment and a curse for not having protested Pete's bullshit assertion that Frank was smaller.
Frank wriggled off a little regretfully when they got there, but the rest of the group was already tumbling out of cars and toward the beach, Pete leading the pack and holding firmly onto Mikey with his other hand.
"Watch out for sharks!" someone called, and someone else shouted, "Fuck you!"
Pretty soon everyone had shucked down to their underwear at least, a crowd of bad dye jobs and ill-advised tattoos. It was Warped, and this was his tribe. Gerard stood out in it for him, pale and unmarked. A little belly, good shoulders in a perpetual stoop, well-muscled legs. Gerard caught his eye and Frank backed up and ran for the water.
The shore was rocky and sharp underfoot so that Frank had to pick his way carefully, slipping and swearing until he got deep enough to float. The water was cool but not too cold, enough that he didn't mind going under to grab Pete's leg and pull hard. He thrashed away as quickly as he could, but Pete caught up to him, and then it was all just a confusion of calls for revenge, headlocks, and splashed water.
He pulled himself out of the melee after Bob dunked him three times in a row hard enough to have him sputtering water from his lungs for days. Mikey and Gerard were standing together balanced on rocks near the shore with just their feet in the water, already wrapped in towels around their shoulders, and Frank swam until he was close enough to knee-walk to his feet.
When he stood up, the breeze was enough to cause goose-pimples to rise on his arms and back. It felt really good after they'd been sweltering for days. All Frank had to do was picture the next day at noon and suddenly he didn't care that he was starting to feel a little cold and could use a towel.
"Gentlemen," Frank said solemnly as he joined the huddle. Then the sole of his foot hit a sharp rock and he said, "SHIT," and lurched forward.
"Hey, easy," Gerard said and grabbed his elbow.
Frank leaned into him and felt wet terrycloth along his naked side except where he was wearing his underwear, and then Gerard's cool, slippery leg on his. They were both cold and wet enough now that if they kissed it would be like kissing under water. Only the insides of their mouths would be warm. He tucked himself in close and thought about it.
"You want my towel?" Gerard said.
"No," Frank mumbled. "I'm good."
Mikey started picking his way back to the beach because his teeth were chattering, but Gerard and Frank stayed. After a while, Gerard shifted, and Frank stood back.
Gerard said, "Hey, Frankie?"
"Yeah," Frank said.
"Do you think of us all like brothers?"
"Uh," Frank said. A prickle of nerves ran down his spine and settled in his stomach. "You mean in the band?"
"Uh," Frank said, longer. "I mean. No?"
"Oh," Gerard said.
"I mean, I've got, like, affection for everyone," Frank said hastily. He crossed his arms over his chest and hunched down. "Just, in different ways."
"Right, right," Gerard said. "I get that."
"Yeah," Frank said, and Gerard didn't say anything. It wasn't the easy silence of before, though, because Frank didn't know what it meant. Plus, he was actually starting to get really cold.
"This is like the hypothermia miracle," Frank said. "Earlier I thought I'd never be cold again."
"It's almost bus call," Gerard said. "We should go back."
As they made their way toward their abandoned clothes and the cars, Frank felt crestfallen, like he'd gotten to the tipping point of something only to back down again. But he was out of time. They were going to be crammed into a car and then into a crowded bus and there would be no more privacy to talk.
"Hey," Frank said, talking fast and grabbing Gerard's hand to pull him to a stop. "Look," he said. "I don't think of you like a brother, okay. I don't."
"Yeah, I got that," Gerard said, sounding sarcastic and annoyed.
"No, look," Frank said. "I mean, do you want me to?"
Gerard blinked. "Frank," he said, soft. He looked down at his feet, and his hand squeezed in Frank's.
"Hey!" Bob yelled from off in the distance. "Hey, you jokers! We're going to leave without you."
"Okay!" Frank shouted back. He loosened his hand and Gerard let go. "Think about it, okay?" he said, and jogged away.
Gerard was quiet in the car, but then again, so was Frank. This time around Pete lost the "who's shortest" award and ended up on Mikey's lap, with Frank and Gerard both squished toward either door. Mikey kept glancing between the two, but being Mikey, he kept his mouth shut. It felt like Gerard might have been looking at him, but Frank didn't try to find out, and instead struck up a conversation with Worm about how his girlfriend back home was getting along.
It was easy, Frank told himself, trying to relax. It was simple. Gerard would either say yes, or he'd say no.
When everyone got back, they learned that bus call had been pushed back two hours due to a traffic accident that had backed all the freeways up for miles. A group of die-hard schemers immediately started making plans, but Frank skirted around them and headed back to his bus anyway to change out of his damp, sandy clothes. He'd lost track of Gerard at some point. As he neared the bus, he saw him leaning against the side underneath one of the windows. His hair still looked wet, pushed back high on his forehead and tucked behind his ears.
Frank's pace stuttered involuntarily before he started walking again.
"Hey," Gerard said.
"Were you waiting for me?" Frank asked.
Gerard shrugged. "I thought," he said, " we could finish talking." It started out as a question but ended as a statement.
"Yeah," Frank said. "All right." He could feel that tingle of nerves again, sharp in his stomach.
"I'm not -" Gerard said, and then took a breath. He ran his hand halfway through his hair and then stopped like he was surprised to find it wet. "I haven't really been letting myself think about stuff. I mean, sometimes I don't let myself think about stuff." He looked up, and his face was very earnest under the orange sodium lights. "I've always really liked you, you know? I like the way we are."
"I - yeah." Frank's face burned warm. "Me too."
Gerard didn't say anything, miraculous for how he could talk so much at almost any other time.
"Gerard," Frank said. "It's easy. Just yes or no."
"It's not easy," Gerard said. "It's - it's complicated, and new and things aren't always a good idea just because they seem like it."
"Yeah," Frank said, "and sometimes they are." He leaned in, close enough to whisper. "Come on," he said. "Let's blow this motherfucker up."
A shiver ran through Gerard, one that Frank was close enough to almost feel, and then he smiled, slow and beautiful in the dim light.
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah."
Frank felt dizzy when Gerard reached out and put a hand on the side of his neck, fingers curved around to the back and his thumb just under Frank's ear, and then he realized he'd forgotten to breath.
"I'm going to," he mumbled, and then forgot the rest of his sentence, just went up on the balls of his feet and kissed Gerard like he'd wanted to and like he'd thought about. But Gerard seemed to get the gist, or at least wasn't surprised, because he made a satisfied noise and kissed Frank back.
Considering how many times they'd kissed before, Frank was surprised at how new this all felt. Overwhelming, because Frank was trying to keep track of everything, the way Gerard's hands felt against Frank's skin, the way his cheek rasped against Frank's, the warmth of his chest pressed against Frank's as Frank leaned into him, the way their lips moved against each other.
Gerard hummed, startled, and Frank pulled back enough to say, "What?" against Gerard's neck.
"You're going to laugh," Gerard warned. He craned his neck up and back, as if he were inviting Frank to do whatever he wanted.
"I like laughing at you," Frank said.
Gerard huffed an amused noise, and Frank said, "What?" again.
"It's just different," he said. "You're different than I thought you'd be."
"Oh, so you thought about how I'd be?" Frank teased, leaning away to look Gerard in the face.
"Not a lot!" Gerard said.
"Sure," Frank said. And then he said, "I thought about you a lot." He didn't even say it to be teasing, but just because it was true. He felt giddy with it, like he wanted to be as naked as possible, and Gerard rewarded him by pulling him back in so they could kiss until they were both short of breath.
Frank pushed in and in again until he had Gerard up against the side of the bus, going up on his toes and back down again in a surging rhythm that lifted him higher each time until he had to settle back on his heels, dizzy and turned on. Gerard had a tight grip on his waist and his upper arm, and they were both shaking slightly.
"Oh man," Gerard groaned. "Oh, man, Frank. Frank, we're still outside."
Frank to a breath, and then let it out. "Yeah. We should fix that." He took a step back, and Gerard stumbled forward with him. Frank giggled. Gerard let go of his arm, then, and Frank turned toward the bus stairs with Gerard still holding on to his belt loop in the back, two fingers pressed against his skin.
The thing about buses was that they were great for if you wanted to be surrounded by a minimum of ten different people. There was always someone to talk to. The downside was you were always surrounded by at least ten different people, and if you wanted privacy, there was no worse place to be on the entire planet.
Gerard let go of Frank as they got up the stairs, because they had to push past the gaming crowd gathered around the kitchenette table. Frank thought he was right behind him, but when Frank got to the other end of the aisle, he'd lost Gerard to a discussion of character stats. When he turned around, Gerard was staring at him, looking desperate. Frank rolled his eyes at him, but the mood had been lost anyway, so he waved him back and shouted, "We'll catch up later."
Later ended up being hours later, when the bus had finally cleared out and settled down. Frank held out as long as he could, waiting until everyone else had gone into their bunks for the night or settled into the back lounge, and then he slid into Gerard's bunk. Gerard had been drowsing, because he shifted only slowly onto his side and then lay blinking at Frank until Frank nuzzled closer. Gerard's eyelashes brushed against Frank's cheek.
"Hey," Frank whispered. The urgency from before was gone, but Frank didn't know how to express his desire for sheer animal affection, for the feel of Gerard close to him, his need to make a private space for the two of them.
Gerard reached over him and caught the lagging end of the curtain and dragged it closed.
"Hey," Gerard said, his voice scratchy and quiet, lilting down at the end, pleased, and then it was just the two of them, alone together in their soft, dark, cave.
Frank had left his shirt off outside, so when Gerard's hand came down to stroke his back, he touched bare skin from the nape of Frank's neck down the length of his spine. Frank breathed out and curled in closer and then arched his shoulders into Gerard's hand. He pressed his palm to Gerard's chest where his t-shirt was soft and beneath it was warm skin. It took some maneuvering before Frank could slide his hand down under Gerard's shirt to feel the way Gerard's stomach tightened as he touched him.
Frank wanted time, and space to learn every way he could touch Gerard and have Gerard touch him back, but even just this was enough for now.
He said, "I'm going to be so annoying." Gerard pressed his lips against Frank's forehead and smiled, and Frank said, "Just wait. I'm going to be so bad."
"Frank," Gerard said. "I know how you are."