Notes:

Hurt/comfort for [info]cimorene111, who came up with the idea and cheerled it too. Thanks to [info]quettaser and [info]megolas for betaing.
 
 
A Natural Reaction to Rough-housing
 
The first time it happened was a total accident. Frank was sitting on the floor, back to the couch with his legs stretched out in front of him, and Gerard came charging through, saying something excited about clouds of ink, and he wasn't looking where he was going and he got his foot tangled between Frank's and went down face-first, narrowly avoiding braining himself on the Playstation.

Frank laughed, because people falling over was always funny, especially when it was Gee, who managed to flail all of his limbs around separately and make a startled whooping sound before he even hit the floor. "You okay, man?"

Gerard pushed himself onto his hands and knees, looking completely shocked, like the floor had become vertical and punched him in the face. He stared warily at it, as if it might finish him off with a headbutt when he wasn't looking.

"Dude," said Frank, because it was best to nip these paranoid fantasies in the bud before Gerard started refusing to use doors, or something, and spent weeks climbing in and out of windows. It had happened before. "You just tripped."

Gerard frowned and sat back on his heels. "I guess," he said doubtfully, and then pressed a hand to his forehead, wincing. "Ow?"

Frank put his controller down and held his hands out to Gerard. "C'mere."

Gerard crawled over immediately and curled up against Frank's side, burrowing in under his arm and sighing happily when Frank kissed his forehead. "That hurt."

"Yeah." Frank put his other arm around Gerard too and squeezed a bit, smiling when Gerard made a pleased squeaking sound. The good thing about Gerard's little dramas was that if you got to them early enough, they were easy to fix. It was when you let things get a toehold that it all went to shit. "You wanna play? I'll let you win."

Gerard sighed again and wriggled his fingers until they were hooked inside the pocket of Frank's jeans. "No, I'll just watch."

Frank couldn't play one-handed though, and he didn't want to let go of Gerard, so he gave up after a few minutes and let Gerard tell him all the things he'd read on Wikipedia about squid, and Frank kept his arms around him until Ray came to tell them it was time for lunch.

***

The second time was an accident, too. Gerard was groping Frank's chest and licking his neck during 'Prison', like normal, and when he let Frank go, Frank spun away a little too fast and reared back so he wouldn't hit himself in the face with his mic stand, and ended up slamming the head of his guitar into Gerard's stomach.

To his credit (and because if Gerard could sing through a kick in the balls, he could sing through the apocalypse, as he liked to tell anyone who'd listen) Gerard didn't even miss a note, just made a face and staggered out of the line of fire and back to the centre of the stage.

He forgot about it until he was crammed between Gerard and Bob on the little sofa in their dressing room later, talking, and he flung his hands out to make a point and caught Gerard in the stomach.

"Dude," Gerard hissed, and sort of mashed himself backwards against the cushions, shrinking away from Frank's hand. "Never mind Bob, we should put you on a fucking riser, for all our sakes."

"I'd just jump off of it. Probably onto your head," Frank pointed out, but he squirmed around and pressed his other hand over Gerard's stomach, gently. "Is it bad? Let me see."

Gerard clicked his tongue, but he let Frank push his shirt up. They both inspected his stomach, which looked the same as ever, pale and smooth.

"Dammit," Gerard said, sounding disappointed. "I wanted a bruise. I hate it when something hurts and there's not a bruise."

"Like a hangnail," Ray said from under the towel he had draped over his head. "Or when you accidentally sit on your balls."

"You do that a lot?" Bob lit a cigarette and passed the pack to Frank. "You've had them all your life, right?"

Ray kept the towel over his head. "You'll see what I'm talking about, when yours finally arrive."

Frank left them to their ball-talk and turned back to Gerard, who was looking glumly at his non-bruised stomach. Frank lit a cigarette for himself, then one for Gerard. "You want me to kiss it better?"

"Yes," said Gerard in a sad voice, so Frank did, even though Gerard was still all sweaty from the show.

Mikey walked in, holding his phone to his ear. "Yeah, he's here, but Frank's kissing his stomach. Okay. You too. Bye." He closed the phone and said to Gerard, "Mom wants you to call her back."

"Okay," said Gerard, shifting a bit. "You're not getting the part that hurts," he told Frank, and pointed to a random spot on his belly a few inches from Frank's mouth. "Here."

Frank moved and kissed where Gerard was pointing, and Gerard's finger was still there so Frank kissed that too and smiled when Gerard giggled. He kissed it again for good measure, and then in a circle around it. He sat up and looked at Gerard. "Better?"

Gerard nodded, and Frank tugged his shirt back down, because any minute now crew and God knew who else were going to start traipsing through, and Frank knew Gerard didn't like to show too much skin in front of people.

Eventually their bus was called, and Frank offered to carry Gerard's bag back to the bus for him, even though Gerard's bag always weighed a ton with all the books and paper and pens and hair shit and random articles from Esquire about Getting the Most Out of Life he carried around with him everywhere.

Frank didn't really mind. Sometimes he still felt weird about only carrying his little bag with him, while other people lugged amps and speakers and cables and monitors and Frank's guitar back and forth. It made Frank feel like he was really rude, especially if it was a chick doing the carrying.

Not that Frank was stronger than roadie chicks. Or chicks in general, in fact, but every time a girl walked past holding something heavy, he could hear his Mom in his head urging him to make her proud and be a gentleman.

"You're a gentleman, Frank," Gerard said then, because apparently he read minds as well as Esquire, and handed Frank his bag.

Later, Frank was in his bunk and Gerard was in his, underneath. Gerard tapped the side of Frank's bunk with his hand and said, "It still hurts, you asshole."

"It's not my fault you're like the princess and the fucking pea," Frank said, but he twisted out of his bunk and tried to hang upside down from his knees and reach Gerard that way. It didn't work, so he tumbled out into the aisle and landed on his knees.

Gerard rolled his eyes. "How the hell do you get health insurance?"

Frank got up and sat on the edge of Gerard's bunk. "I use your social security number," he said, and pushed up the shirt of Gerard's windmill-printed pajamas. He leaned over and kissed his belly a few times, and then rested his cheek against it.

"You still haven't called Mom," Mikey reminded Gerard, squeezing past Frank on the way his own bunk. "Do it now, it's still early back home."

"Okay, okay," said Gerard, and Frank got up and climbed back into his bunk, because he thought even Gerard's Mom might think it was weird that he was always kissing parts of her son when she wanted to talk to him.

He heard Gerard say, "Hey, it's me," and then he fell asleep and didn't hear anything else until morning.

***

The third time was an accident, no matter what Gerard said when he was bitching to Frank in the bathroom.

"I'm sorry," Frank said for the fifth time, holding Gerard's hand under the faucet. His fingers were totally going numb, but Gerard's skin was still pink and tender-looking. "I didn't do it on purpose."

"No, people always hand each other coffee that's hot enough to melt steel," Gerard mumbled around the two fingers of his other hand he had stuck in his mouth. "I'm going to start introducing you as Liability Iero on stage."

Gerard's hand had returned to its usual color, so Frank shut the water off and reached for a towel. "Mine wasn't that hot," he said, gently patting Gerard dry. "It was like a freak occurrence. You got any of that aloe shit?"

"Mikey does."

Of course Mikey did, because Mikey could burn himself on cold milk. Frank went out to the bunks and dug in Mikey's bag until he found it, and then went back into the bathroom. Gerard was still sucking on his fingers, but he pulled them out of his mouth with an obscene slurp.

"You and your oral fixation," Frank said, and took Gerard's other hand. He used his teeth to get the cap off the tube, squeezed a little out and started to smooth it gently over Gerard's skin.

"You should use your ring finger," Gerard said bossily. "It's the weakest, so it has the lightest touch."

Frank knew that, because Gerard had told him every single day when they were still wearing enough stage make-up to put RuPaul to shame. He switched obediently though, working the cream over Gerard's hand and wrist. "Am I hurting you?"

Gerard hummed a little bit under his breath. "No. Feels nice," he said. "It would feel nicer if you hadn't given me third-degree burns, though."

"Well, then I'd have no reason to rub lotion on you, would I?" Frank said, and that was weird and awkward because it sounded like he'd been looking for a reason, which was so totally not the case. "Uh."

Gerard gave him sort of a Look, but miraculously decided not to be an asshole for once, and didn't say anything except, "You realize you're going to have to wait on me hand and foot for the rest of the day."

"And that's different from every other day how?" Frank turned Gerard's hand gently and kissed the palm before letting him go. "There. All better."

He went to put Mikey's aloe shit back, and then went out to the lounge, and Gerard followed him, sitting down on the comfiest spot on the couch and looking up at him expectantly.

"Oh my God, you're serious," said Frank.

"I never joke about slavery," Gerard swung his feet up and settled back, cradling his hand to his chest even though it wasn't even pink anymore. "I need a cigarette. And a soda. And your copy of Wired."

Frank started to protest, "But I haven't even read it yet," but Gerard just made his eyes all big and pulled his hurt face, the one Frank was still not immune to after all these fucking years. Frank sighed and brought over everything Gerard wanted. "Can I at least read it with you?"

Gerard said, "Sure," and moved around so Frank was sitting against the arm of the couch and Gerard could lie against him. He blew smoke in Frank's face and rested his soda on Frank's jeans so the condensation soaked through in a freezing circle and he made Frank turn pages before he was done reading them and skip ahead to different sections and then he lay down with his head in Frank's lap and made Frank read this totally boring page of specs out loud.

Frank put up with it until Gerard wanted him to do funny voices for an interview with the Penny Arcade guys, at which point he said, "There is nothing stopping me from rolling this thing up and smacking you in the face with it."

"You wouldn't," Gerard said comfortably. Then his eyes flew open and he said, "You wouldn't, right?"

"Gerard!" Frank tossed the magazine aside and rubbed the hand that wasn't going dead, trapped under Gerard's elbow, through his hair. "We're going to watch TV now."

Gerard didn't bitch too much about that, only demanding Frank change the channel four times, and adjust the volume twice.

By the time they got on stage, Gerard seemed to have forgotten about the coffee incident, although he did seem to suck on his fingers and then wiggle them in Frank's direction more than usual.

He always did that a lot, though. It was hard to tell.

***

The fourth time - okay, the fourth time wasn't an accident, Frank had to admit to himself. But only to himself, because nobody else seemed to notice, thank God.

He didn't mean to hurt Gerard, exactly. It was just he'd spent the whole day rolling his head around, moaning and stretching his arms up over his head in a way that pulled his T-shirt up, away from his jeans, and then moaning again and rolling his head some more and moving his shoulders around restlessly.

"It feels like I'm going to grow wings," he'd complained.

Ray looked up and said, "Like a burny, stretchy pain?"

"Yes!" Gerard said.

Frank asked Ray, "How would you even know that?" but Ray ignored him and he and Gerard had a conversation about wings that made Frank's head hurt and he had to go and swap everything in Mikey and Bob's bags around to distract himself.

As if anyone knew what it felt like to grow wings. Jesus. Anyway, the point was that Gerard had been bitching about his back hurting for hours, but he wouldn't take an aspirin or use Frank's heatpad or let any of them try to help, and Gerard was annoying as hell when he was playing martyr.

So when Gerard was on his knees screaming into his mic and Frank was standing behind him with his knees pressed against his shoulders, he maybe let a little more of his weight lie on Gerard than was strictly necessary. And he maybe kept Gerard pressed there even after he felt him trying to get up - just for a minute! - but he wasn't trying to hurt him, he was just trying to make a point.

What the point was, Frank wasn't sure. 'This wouldn't hurt if you weren't such a fucking drama queen,' maybe, or 'you could be picking me up on your shoulders and wearing me like a boa if you'd only listened.'

Whatever. They had a hotel that night, Gerard could soak in a hot bath and sleep on a real mattress and he'd be fine in the morning. Frank decided not to feel too bad about it.

Except, he realized later, when he was lying on his own blissfully real mattress, after his own blissfully hot bath, Gerard was probably going to sleep naked on the balcony or something, just so the pain would be worse and he could bitch for even longer about it.

Groaning, Frank rolled out of bed and padded down the hall to Gerard's room. The shit he had to do for this band, seriously. He should ask for a bigger cut of the royalties. His insurance premiums really were pretty high.

"Gee?" he called softly, knocking on the door. "It's me, let me in."

There were some shuffling noises and then Gerard opened the door, looking tired but pleased to see Frank. "Hey, what's up?"

Frank walked straight past him and into the bathroom. The tub was totally dry. Of course. He walked back out and pointed at Gerard. "I'm not letting you sleep naked on the balcony."

"I never sleep naked," Gerard said, closing the door. "Also, fucking what?"

"You need to take a bath," Frank said, and held up his hands when Gerard opened his mouth. "Not because you stink, don't start. Because of your back. You need to take a hot bath and then you need to let me give you a fucking backrub."

Gerard smiled. "I like your backrubs."

Frank folded his arms. "Well, then, you better get your ass in the tub."

"My ass doesn't hurt," Gerard said, but he went into the bathroom anyway. He left the door open.

Frank stretched out on Gerard's bed - the covers were cold, which meant Gerard hadn't even lain down yet. Frank looked over at his laptop on the small table in the corner, and sure enough, Gerard's Sims were there, having what looked like a pretty crazy party in a dungeon, or something.

Frank heard the water start running, and he picked up the remote and turned on the TV. He flipped through shitty sitcom after depressing news story after stupid show about how rich Tom Cruise was, and then hit gold. "Dude, Dogma's on!"

"Turn it up so I can hear," Gerard called, and Frank heard the water shut off and some shuffling sounds that must have been Gerard taking his clothes off.

Frank did, but he could still hear splashing and the squeaky sound of skin as Gerard got into the tub.

"Oh, God," he heard Gerard groan, his voice echoing weirdly. "That feels so good. I should always listen to you."

"That's what I'm saying," Frank called, and then they both shut up so they could watch (or in Gee's case, listen to) the movie.

It was sort of weirdly intimate, listening to someone else take a bath. Frank could pick out some sounds, like the deep slosh that was Gerard leaning forward to grab something, or the scratchy pop of a shampoo bottle opening, or Gerard saying lines along with Jay and Silent Bob (well, mostly Jay, but Frank just knew he was making the Silent Bob faces to himself) and then laughing to himself. Other noises were more mysterious, though, like a strange slippery squeak that sounded like Gerard rolling over, and then this rapid splashing sound that could have been him rinsing his hair or practicing his dance moves or jerking off.

He probably wouldn't jerk off with the door open, Frank thought idly, although he was probably further away from Frank than when he did it in his bunk. And you could always tell when Gerard was jerking off, too, because he wasn't muttering and thrashing around like he did in his sleep, but there were no drawing noises or reading noises or tinny music leaking from his headphones, either. He was pretty quiet, actually, which was sort of weird because Gerard made more noise than anyone else doing anything else, usually, and Frank had always thought that vocalists would be loud by default. Maybe he was louder when he was having sex.

"This is my favorite part!" he heard Gerard say suddenly, and there was a dramatic slosh-squeak-splash noise, and then two dull thumps which were Gerard's feet on the bathmat, and Frank tried to rearrange his face so it wouldn't look like he'd been thinking about Gerard's sex noises.

Gerard appeared in the doorway, a towel wrapped around his hips and his hair plastered back flat on his head, water dripping all down his back. "What he really hates is the shit that gets carried out in his name," he said with Chris Rock, and smiled at Frank. "You know this movie did fucking wonders for my Catholic guilt, man. It's fucking genius."

"It's awesome," Frank agreed, not looking at Gerard because it felt really weird, like he was naked or something and Frank had seen Gerard naked before, you couldn't live with someone for years and not, but this was different. They were in a hotel room and Gerard was all wet and?it was just different. Then Frank felt ridiculous for getting embarrassed by his best friend, of all people, so he forced himself to watch casually as Gerard went over to his suitcase and started digging around in it.

"I do feel better," Gerard said, pulling out his stupid girl's breakfast pants that he got in Japan. They were damn comfy, though, Frank had to admit. Gerard tugged them on under his towel, and then yanked it off and used it to rub his hair vigorously. "I read you shouldn't rub your hair," he said from underneath it. "You're supposed to like, squeeze it dry, so it doesn't get all frayed, or whatever."

"I don't think hair frays. It's not like denim." Frank sat up and scooted back against the pillows, making room for Gerard. "And where did you read that shit, fucking Vogue?"

Gerard came out from under the towel and shook his head around. "It was lying around last time I got a haircut. There's actually some good articles in there."

He dropped the towel on the floor - Frank did not make a remark about having some respect for Housekeeping, god, Gerard was such a pig - and came to crawl onto the bed.

Frank opened his legs and patted the space between them. "Sit."

Gerard made a whole production out of climbing over Frank's leg and settling himself down, leaning back against Frank and sighing contentedly. "You make a great recliner."

"That's nice, but I can't give you a backrub with my chest, genius." Frank pushed at Gerard's shoulders. "Sit forward."

Gerard did, but then he said, "This is so not comfortable," and rolled right over Frank's leg to lie on his stomach, instead. He sighed and wrapped his arms around a pillow. "Better."

Frank got up on his knees and leaned over, but Gerard's skin was still a little damp and it sort of squeaked when Frank tried to move his hands on it. "Do you have like, lotion?"

"Mikey does."

"I am not going to Mikey's room to ask for lotion, dude." Frank climbed off the bed and went to Gerard's suitcase. "You must have something."

"Try the front pocket," Gerard said, muffled in the pillow.

Frank dug around and found a bright pink bottle with Japanese writing on it that looked promising, but when he took a cautious sniff it turned out to be laundry detergent. "As if you ever do laundry, you filthy bastard," he said, but then he found some hand cream. "Score."

He climbed back onto the bed and knelt next to Gerard, squirting some lotion into his hands. Gerard jumped a little when Frank touched him. "Cold."

"Sorry," Frank said quietly, concentrating on feeling out the knots under Gerard's skin. "You're tense as hell, dude."

"Mmm," said Gerard, either in agreement or appreciation, Frank couldn't tell.

He swept the lotion briskly over Gerard's back, down to his waistband and back up to his shoulders, and then got to work, rubbing the heels of hands over Gerard's shoulders in small circles, pressing his fingers in either side of his spine. He could feel the tension bleeding out of Gerard, not just in the muscles under his hands but in the way Gerard's breathing went even and deep, and his fingers lost their tight grip on the pillow and instead lay open and limp on the bed.

It was sort of therapeutic, giving backrubs. Frank liked knowing he was making Gerard feel better, and he liked the methodical nature of it, the way he could feel the parts he'd worked on and the places where the kinks still needed to be worked out. Gerard was quiet at first, occasionally hissing when Frank hit a sore spot, but when Frank slid his thumbs firmly down the length of his spine, he went boneless and groaned into the pillow.

"You're so fucking good at that," he slurred, and his fingers tightened once and then relaxed again. "I should get Brian to - ahhh - write this into your fucking contract."

"We can't even get two days off in a row, you think he cares about your back problems?" That wasn't really fair. Brian probably did care about Gerard's back problems, and he quite often tried to get them two or more days off in a row, but then they'd get asked to play somewhere or do something cool and they'd sit around and talk each other into it, and before they knew what was happening it was another straight month on the road.

Frank didn't mind, not really. He reached a little awkwardly to Gerard's other shoulder and felt a spasm in his own back, down near the base of his spine.

"Fuck," he grimaced, stretching. "This is so not a good angle."

"You can stop," Gerard murmured, but Frank wasn't done and he hated leaving stuff unfinished.

He leaned on Gerard's back for support and swung his leg over to the other side, settling down over Gerard's hips. "Better."

"You're sitting on my ass," Gerard pointed out, but he didn't sound mad about it.

"Lucky there's so much of it," Frank said, and Gerard laughed which made his whole body shake and okay, that felt kind of weird, sitting there on Gerard's ass while they both jiggled around. "Dude, I'm trying to work here."

Gerard laughed again, and then said, "Sorry," and waved his hand in a circle. "Please, continue."

Frank rubbed his hands over Gerard's shoulder, and pressed in with the heels and dug his fingers in and made little circles that way, and Gerard stretched out his arms and sighed. "That's the worst part," he said, turning his head so Frank could see one of his closed eyes, his pointy nose pressing into the pillow and half his mouth. "Right there, ah, ahhh."

Frank took the pressure off immediately, using the whole flats of his hands to press down gently over the skin. He moved his hands in circles, pushing in a little more over the knot he could still feel by Gee's shoulderblade.

"Oh, God," Gerard moaned, half-muffled by the pillow, still. "Oh, yeah. That's it. Mmm, Frankie, that's so good, don't stop."

Frank didn't stop, but he did feel his face start to heat up, because Gerard had chosen the worst possible time to prove Frank's vocalist theory correct. He kept moaning, and sighing and flexing his arms and his feet and his?all his stuff, under Frank's hands and between Frank's legs and all spread out over the bed.

Gerard pulled his head up restlessly, took a sharp breath and rubbed his face against the pillow a little bit. When Frank moved one hand up to cover the back of his neck, it was more to comfort him than anything else, but Gerard groaned and tipped his head forward, encouraging the slide of Frank's fingers. "Yeah."

Frank rubbed his neck with one hand and his shoulder with the other, and Gerard kept up the moaning and flexing and if it went on for much longer, Frank realized, he was going to be doing a lot worse things to Gerard's ass than sitting on it. You couldn't just stop in the middle of a massage, though, sexual confusion or no sexual confusion, so he stayed where he was and started gentling the touches back down, while biting his tongue hard enough to hurt and thinking furiously about his grandmother.

Gerard quietened eventually, still breathing deeply. "Thanks," he said sort of breathily when Frank climbed off him. "God, that's better."

"Glad I could help," Frank said, settling onto his stomach next to Gerard. Gee's hair was drying into a stupid shape, sticking up in a strange sort of sail at the back and all flat and twisty over his forehead, and for a minute Frank thought it would be okay, that he was just letting himself get carried away by being that close to another person, that it was just Gerard, for God's sake.

But then Gerard shuffled around and hooked his bare foot over Frank's bare ankle and snuck his fingers into Frank's hand and said, "You could stay here tonight. I mean, if you want."

And Frank said, "Sure," before he even knew that's what was going to come out of his mouth, and Gerard smiled and started talking about Kevin Smith again, and Frank didn't listen, because he was too busy feeling his stomach do a complete three-sixty, and thinking, ah, shit.

When he woke up in the morning, it was to Mikey, standing over him with a blank expression and saying, "Frank. Frank. Frank," over and over, without raising his voice or anything.

It was probably just luck that Frank had woken up while he was there. "What's up, man?"

"Breakfast," Mikey said, then, "You're not in your room."

Frank rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and stared at the ceiling for a minute, getting used to being awake. "Um, we watched Dogma, and I fell asleep."

Mikey looked back at him, his mouth in a flat line. He nodded at the nightstand. "Why was lotion involved?"

"I gave him a backrub, you know he'd been bitching all fucking day," Frank told him, and his stomach did the three-sixty thing again, because up until that moment he hadn't remembered the other, much more awkward, part. "Where is he, anyway?"

"He's downstairs already," Mikey said, eyeing the lotion one more time before stepping back so Frank could get out of bed. "We saved you a seat."

"Aww, Mikey." Frank gave him a hug, which Mikey sort of bore patiently, and then blew a raspberry on his cheek for good measure. "Give me five minutes, I gotta change."

As he was changing, Frank thought about how weird it was that Gerard would go to breakfast without waking him, when they were right there in the same bed and everything. It was possible Gerard had meant to, but had gotten distracted by a chain of thought that he'd just followed out of the door, like in cartoons where the dog sleepwalks towards the smell of pie, or whatever.

It wasn't until Frank went into the bathroom to brush his teeth that he saw it, printed neatly in black across his cheekbone. It was backwards, in the mirror, but he could tell what it said.

"You just looked so cute," he read aloud, and stood there grinning at himself like an idiot while a warm, happy feeling spread through all of his limbs and out to his fingers and toes.

He was sort of sad to wash it off, but when he went down to breakfast, he caught Gerard's eye, and Gerard smiled, and Frank smiled back, and touched his own face quickly, and Gerard looked down at his coffee and his hair was still in that stupid shape from the night before and he was wearing sunglasses even though they were inside, and Frank felt the warm, happy feeling again, all over.

"What are you so happy about at the ass-crack of dawn?" Bob rumbled through a mouthful of toast.

"Nothing," said Frank, and stole the other slice right off his plate.

***

The fifth time wasn't an accident at all, not even a little bit. Gerard was sitting on the couch in sweatpants and bare feet and Frank was standing next to him, and Gerard said, "God, I so don't want to do this stupid phone interview. I need an excuse."

Frank looked at the dictionary he was holding, and then at Gerard. Then he held the dictionary directly over Gerard's foot and dropped it.

"Motherfucker," Gerard yelled, kicking both legs out and clapping his hands over his face. "Frank, what the fuck. Ah, I think you fucking broke it!"

"Shit." Frank dropped to his knees immediately, cradling Gerard's foot in his hands. Shit, shit. "Can you move your toes?"

Gerard yelled again into his hands when Frank touched his little toe, and then slammed both fists into the couch cushions so hard a bunch of magazines slid off the coffee table. "Motherfucker, don't do that!"

"Sorry!" Frank took his hands away but kept Gerard's foot balanced on his knee. This was so not what he was going for. "If you can move your toes it's probably not broken."

"You know what else would mean it isn't broken? Not fucking dropping giant dictionaries on it!" Gerard was really pale and sort of sweating, and his hands were still tightly folded into fists. He punched the cushions again, breathing shakily and staring at the ceiling like it was going to rain down pain relief. "Why do we even have a giant dictionary? No, wait, I don't care. Motherfucker, this hurts."

"It's Ray's. I was looking up how to spell choreography," Frank told him anyway. He slid the dictionary under the coffee table. Maybe if Gerard couldn't see it, his foot would hurt less, or something. "Shit, man, you look like you're going to puke."

"Don't even say it," Gerard said tightly, and swallowed rapidly. He shifted on the couch and moaned, pushing his hair out of his sweaty face with one hand, and Frank has apparently been visited by the sadist fairy in the night, or something, because it was totally turning him on.

Not Gerard being in pain, obviously. But the moaning and the sweating, yeah. Like the distinction even mattered, when he was sitting there two minutes from popping a boner under his best friend's foot which he'd just maybe broken on purpose.

With a dictionary.

"I bet this stuff never happens to other people," he said out loud. Gerard looked down at him, finally. He was a little less green, but he winced when Frank hovered his hands over his foot. "Seriously, dude, let me check it out."

"I think you've done enough," Gerard said, but then he shoved his fist in his mouth and screwed his eyes up. "Mmfkay."

Frank rubbed Gerard's ankle soothingly and then very, very gently wiggled each of Gerard's toes back and forth. Gee's breath hitched a little bit, but he didn't cry out, and when Frank was done he wiggled his toes by himself, a little.

"It's not broken," Frank told him, cupping the heel in his hands. "Man, I'm really sorry. I didn't think it would actually hurt you."

Gerard took his fist out of his mouth. Frank could see red marks on the fingers where he'd bitten down. "Is it even worth me asking what you were thinking?"

"You said you needed an excuse not to do the interview."

Gerard stared at him, and then spoke very slowly. "A phone interview, yeah. A busted foot is supposed to get me out of that how?"

Oh. Yeah. "Oh. Yeah." They sat there for a minute, looking at each other over Gerard's foot. Then Frank offered, "Well, look on the bright side. I'm pretty sure you'll have a sweet bruise."

"On my foot, where no-one will even be able to see it," Gerard bitched, and then Katie, one of the PR girls, came in holding a bunch of papers and a cellphone.

"No time for footrubs, guys, people have to work," she said, and sat down next to Gerard. "I guess you guys are pretty good multitaskers, though, huh."

Frank put Gerard's foot down and stood up. "I was going anyway," he said, and left before Gerard could ask him to stay.

Outside, he got some coffee and bummed a cigarette from a guitar tech and found a corner to sit in and brood. Brooding wasn't really his thing, usually, he tended to leave it to Gerard (obviously) or Bob, who could get a pretty bitching brood on when he felt like it.

He felt like the realization that a) he totally wanted to stick his hands in Gerard's pants and that b) his subconscious mind obviously felt causing pain was the best way to go about achieving this was a brood-worthy situation. He smoked his cigarette and glowered at passing members of the crew over his coffee, but they all just waved at him and some of them said, "Hi, Frankie!" and Frank waved and said hi back, because his Mom raised him right and also, because he just wasn't a practiced brooder.

He sat there for what felt like hours, but when he checked his watch was actually only thirty minutes, and didn't feel any better. When Gerard was brooding, he usually came out of it all clear-headed and with a renewed sense of purpose or whatever, but Frank felt exactly the same as before, it's just now his butt was numb from sitting on the floor.

"What crawled into your ass, Iero?" Ray said, looming out from behind a stack of speakers. His hair cast a crazy giant shadow on the floor. "Come on, this is the day I finally beat Bob at Guitar Hero. I want you there as my witness."

"Never going to happen," Frank said, but he grabbed Ray's hand and pulled himself up. "You know he owns you."

"But I wrote the fucking songs," Ray said, sounding pained, and Frank tugged on his hair and followed him to his certain defeat.

That night was another hotel night, thank any and all celestial bodies who might exist, and so Frank didn't have to deal with Gerard being weird and quiet in close quarters, the way he'd been weird and quiet for the rest of the day.

Frank took a long shower and jerked off while thinking determinedly about anything other than Gerard and his goddam moaning noises, and was just pulling back the sheets to get into bed when there was a knock at his door.

He opened it and Gerard pushed past him immediately, hobbling even though he'd pranced around the stage like usual, so there couldn't have been that much wrong with his foot. "We need to talk."

"Okay?" Frank watched Gerard sit on the bed. His face was closed off and tense, and Frank had a horrible feeling in his stomach, like it had been hollowed out with a melon baller. "Gee, man-"

"Sit down," Gerard said quietly, not looking at him, and Frank went and perched gingerly on the bed next to him. "Look. I'm saying this because I care about you, okay."

Oh, God. Any speech that started with 'I care about you' was doomed from the fucking start, in Frank's experience. He swallowed and his mouth felt totally dry. "Okay."

Gerard sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. He still didn't look at Frank, so Frank watched his ear as he spoke. "I think maybe you need to think carefully about how violent you've become lately. I know you've always expressed yourself, uh, exuberantly, like with the whole kicking me in the balls thing-"

"You still haven't forgotten that, huh?" Frank interrupted, keeping his voice light.

"I will never forget it," Gerard said, and for a minute it seemed like things might be okay, that he was going to say something about his kids getting born with headaches and Frank could laugh at the idea that anyone would let Gerard impregnate them and they could just get back to normal, but then Gerard cleared his throat and went on. "It's just recently I've noticed that maybe you've been keeping some anger bottled up, or something, and it's coming out in ways that aren't appropriate, and it's not like you, Frank. I think maybe you need to talk to someone about it."

"Gerard, I don't-"

Gerard talked over the top of him. That was just like normal, at least. "Nobody likes admitting they have a problem. I get that, of all people. So I talked to the guys and we've all agreed that it's best if we take some time out, and you can get some help. I called your Mom, she's on board."

Okay, this definitely did not happen to other people. Other people did not have interventions staged on them because their dick was wired wrong, or whatever the fuck was going on in Frank's pants. He stared miserably at Gerard's ear. "My Mom? Gerard, what did you tell her?"

Gerard didn't say anything, just turned his face further away from Frank and his shoulders hitched a bit, and Frank had time to start seriously panicking because Gerard crying was always completely terrible to witness when it wasn't over a movie or a group hug at the end of Friends or something, but then Gerard's ear sort of moved up a little bit, in a way that was both familiar and fucking suspicious, and Frank grabbed his shoulder and turned him around by force.

The bastard was bright pink and biting his bottom lip and laughing. "You asshole!" Frank shouted, and tackled Gerard backwards onto the bed, determined to beat the shit out of him once and for all. He'd give him fucking violent impulses, what the fuck. "My Mom? Motherfucker, that's not funny!"

Gerard wheezed and coughed and laughed his stupid high-pitched laugh, curling up with the force of it so his head bashed against Frank's hard. "Ow! Fuck," he gasped, before collapsing back to the bed and laughing some more, shaking with it, and now he really was almost crying, and making a really stupid face, too.

"Your face is stupid," Frank told him, and started trying to jam his knuckles as hard as he could into all the places that would hurt, like the centre of Gerard's chest and the soft part under his bottom rib. He tried to knee him in the nuts for good measure, too, and ended up half on top of him with his arm jammed tight over Gerard's throat.

"Foot!" Gerard choked, slapping at Frank's elbow with one hand and - fucking ow - punching him right on the bony part of his hip with the other. "Still hurts!"

"I'm going to fuck you up so bad you won't even remember what it was like to have feet," Frank told him, but he hitched himself up higher so he wouldn't accidentally kick him in the toe or something, and went back to trying to give Gerard the world's first permanent bruise. "My Mom."

"Your face!" Gerard was still laughing, even as he managed to squirm out from under Frank's arm and jam his elbow into Frank's side, which didn't hurt so much as take Frank by surprise, so he wasn't expecting it when Gerard rolled them over so he was on top. "Your face. Oh, my God, I thought I was going to die."

Frank dug both his heels into the backs of Gerard's knees as hard as he could and shoved at Gerard's chest at the same time, and Gerard yelped and Frank rolled them over again. He kept his knees tight around Gerard's thighs so Gee couldn't surprise him with a kick to the balls, and trapped Gerard's elbows against the bed with his hands, for good measure. "I hate you and I hope you do die."

"You love me," Gerard panted. He was still pink and his hair was totally crazy and he was smiling his biggest, stupidest grin. He struggled a little more and Frank put all his weight on him, keeping him pinned, and then Gerard went very still and his eyes went very wide and he said, very quietly, "Oh."

"What?" said Frank, also panting, but of course, he had a fucking hard-on and was just rubbing it all over Gerard and he hadn't even realized. He was sure he and his dick used to keep each other better informed about this stuff. Oh well, they'd have plenty of time to get reacquainted after Frank quit the band and moved to the Himalayas, which he was going to do just as soon as he'd figured out how to get out of this without just dropping down dead from embarrassment. "Oh."

Gerard stayed very still, sort of smiling sideways and not looking at Frank. "Dude, it's okay."

It was not okay, because Frank's dick was still hard and he was still on top of Gerard and now he was going to have to listen to Gerard talk about how it was a natural reaction to rough-housing, or something, and it would be the end of the world. "Sorry."

"It's okay," Gerard said again, and he moved against Frank a little bit, as much as Frank's grip on him would allow, and Frank felt - oh. Oh. "Yeah," said Gerard, still doing the sideways smile. He looked at Frank, though. "So like, this is awkward."

"I really agree," Frank said, and waited for Gerard to say something else, but he didn't, and Frank started to feel weird, holding Gerard down like that, so he let go of Gerard's arms and climbed off him awkwardly and lay down on his back next to him, instead.

They lay there in silence for a minute, while Frank had a stern conversation with his dick, which wanted to know what the fuck was going on, and Gerard maybe did the same, how should Frank know.

Eventually, Gerard said, "For the record, okay, I'm not generally all that into the rough stuff."

Which was a total lie, because Frank remembered this one night on Taste of Chaos when Gerard and Bert managed to break a dresser, a mirror and a nightstand, and Bert had to try and explain everything away by himself because Gerard hid in the bathroom like a pussy until Brian had written the manager a check to cover the damage.

He didn't say any of that, though. He said, "For the record, me neither."

Gerard turned his head and faced Frank. "Insert speech about natural reactions to rough-housing here?" he said lightly, knocking his elbow against Frank's.

"Oh," said Frank, feeling pissed off and embarrassed but mostly - he felt around inside his own head carefully, just to make sure - mostly really fucking disappointed, and that wasn't just his dick talking. "Um, sure. Yeah. No problem, dude. I should go."

He was halfway to the door when Gerard said, "Frank, this is your room."

Frank stopped, and took a moment to consider that if someone had asked him thirty seconds ago if he could look like an even bigger idiot, he would have laughed in their face. Oh, how wrong he was. "Oh. Right."

"So I should go," Gerard said easily, and he folded forward and got to his feet and knocked Frank lightly on the shoulder as he walked past. "Night."

"Night," Frank said, watching Gerard open the door, and he wanted to badly to ask him to stay, just to watch a movie or talk about random shit and maybe fall asleep holding Frank's hand again, but he didn't. He just closed the door behind Gerard, leaned against it and let himself feel like the utter loser he was.

***

The sixth time wasn't even Frank. It was Ray, getting a random burst of genius and working them all into the ground in the makeshift studio, even though they'd played a fucking amazing show that night and everyone was exhausted.

Not too exhausted for the music, though, nobody ever was. After Ray finally decided enough was enough, Frank stayed up working on his part for a while, and he didn't realize how late it was until he went to get a drink and found Gerard slumped on the couch, holding his head in his hand and watching the TV on mute.

"Can I get you anything?" Frank asked him quietly, and Gerard shook his head gingerly, like it hurt to even move it but it would hurt more to speak. Frank forgot about getting a drink and went to sit next to him. "C'mere."

He got one leg up on the couch and Gerard shifted around gingerly until he was settled back against Frank, head resting heavily on Frank's shoulder. "Hurts."

Frank murmured something, he didn't know what, not even words, and laid one hand across Gerard's forehead. Gerard didn't flinch, so Frank touched his fingertips to Gee's temples and moved them in circles. Gerard let out a breath after a minute and relaxed, more of his weight against Frank, familiar and warm.

Frank watched his face carefully for any sign of pain, but Gerard just closed his eyes and let Frank touch him, one hand on Frank's leg and the other curled against his own chest.

Frank had been watching a silent episode of South Park for a while (not one he'd seen before, and making up his own lines was sort of more entertaining, actually, even though he couldn't do the voices, not even inside his head) when Gerard sighed deeply and shifted, turning his face towards Frank a little. The lines in his forehead had smoothed out and he looked better, Frank thought. "Okay?"

"Mmm," Gerard said, eyes still closed. "Don't stop, though."

Frank laughed under his breath and kept touching Gerard's face, stroking the backs of his fingers down over his cheek and jaw. Gerard lifted his chin and Frank let his hand slip lower, touching Gerard's throat with his fingertips, running his nails lightly around the collar of his shirt. Gerard mmm-ed a little and Frank did it again, fascinated by the way Gerard's throat moved when he swallowed. He drew an invisible spiral pattern up to Gee's jaw and down again and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "You should get some sleep."

Gerard turned his face further towards Frank, but otherwise didn't move. "It's too far."

"Yeah, well, you're not sleeping on me, you heavy fuck, my leg is already going dead." Frank actually would not have minded falling asleep with Gerard in principle - the thought of his bunk sort of sucked, actually, and he really wished this was a hotel night, more than usual - but falling asleep on the couch was just asking for Ray to wake you up at a stupid hour, bounding out of the door to go running like a total freak. "Come on, fucker, get up."

Gerard made complaining noises, but he hauled himself off the couch and stumbled to the bunks. Frank turned off the TV and followed him, clambering up into the bunk above.

He got the curtain closed and was trying to untangle the inexplicable knots his headphones always got themselves into, even though they were fine when he left them (he blamed Bob) when he felt something wriggly on his arm.

"No!" he said, yanking himself away so fast he slammed his shoulder into the side of his bunk, fucking ow. But it wasn't a giant, fleshy spider, it was just Gerard's fucking hand. "Jesus. Give me a heart attack, see if I ever rub your head again."

"Sorry," Gerard said, and his hand disappeared.

Frank rolled over onto his stomach and stuck his head out of the curtain. Gerard was leaning out of his bunk too. "What," said Frank, "You need me to fluff your fucking pillows?"

Gerard just laughed, and rolled back into his bunk, and didn't offer an explanation at all.

Frank shut his curtains again and plugged himself into his iPod, and when he fell asleep he dreamed about starting a coffee business with Mikey in Bratislava, and Ray and Bob kept riding past the window on a tandem bike. When he woke up he felt sort of bad about Gerard not being in the dream, though, so he didn't tell anyone about it, even though it was totally fucking cool.

***

The seventh time was Mikey's fault. He was refereeing a marathon rubber band-pinging contest between Frank and Alicia (who was not winning, okay, she just had a slight and temporary lead because her nails gave her greater advantage) and when Gerard came in, he said, "Ten bonus points if you get Gerard in the face."

Alicia had not known Mikey or Gerard nearly so long as Frank had, and she hesitated, the fool. Frank wasted no time at all in letting one fly, though, and it shot straight through the air and caught Gerard on his bottom lip.

"Ow!" he said, pressing two fingers over the spot.

Frank pinged another one.

This one hit Gerard right on the tip of the nose and he blinked. "Stop it!"

"Ten more points," Mikey said. He rubbed Alicia's knee. "Baby, you only have a four point lead, now."

"Not for long," said Frank, and he shot another rubber band at Gerard, catching him by his left eye.

"Jesus!" said Gerard, turning his face away.

"And he's back in the game!" Mikey leaned over and gave Frank a high five. "Ten more points!"

"Yes!" Frank crowed, throwing both arms in the air. "In your face, Simmons!"

"In my face, you mean," Gerard had his whole hand clapped over his eye. "You're willing to blind me to win a stupid game?"

Frank rolled his eyes. "Don't be so fucking dramatic."

"I could have lost an eye!"

"You could rock a patch, Gee," Alicia said, curling up under Mikey's arm. Accepting defeat, Frank thought gleefully. "It could be your next concept."

Gerard took his hand away and blinked both eyes rapidly, and Frank felt his whole stomach do - not a three-sixty, because they were actually borderline pleasant. This was really, really not. It was more how he imagined the little dudes in Tony Hawk must feel when he fucked up a turn mid-air and they went crashing head-first down onto the ramp. Like that.

"Gee," he said, shoving up off the couch and scrambling over to Gerard. "Fuck, man, you're bleeding."

"I fucking know," Gerard said, staring at his hand. There was a smudge of blood across two of his fingertips, where they'd smeared the trickle by his eye. "Jesus, Frank."

"I'm sorry," Frank said. The horrible stomach feeling rose, and he swallowed thickly. "Gee, I didn't mean to."

Gerard was still staring at his hand. "Seriously," he said. "An eye."

"Let me see." Frank took a step towards Gerard but he moved back out of Frank's reach. "Don't be a baby, come on."

Gerard said, "I think maybe that's close enough," and his tone was light but he didn't look at Frank when he said it. "I just came in to tell you guys we got soundcheck now."

He still had his hand on his face as he left. Frank watched him go, then realized he was standing there gazing like a loser, so he turned around and looked at Mikey instead, but he wasn't paying attention, he was doing something inappropriate to Alicia's ear with his tongue.

"You guys are gross," he said, but they didn't look up. Frank sighed and stared at the ceiling. There was a brown stain on it from the week before when Gerard had gotten over-excited during a game of Magic: the Gathering, and gestured crazily with a cup of coffee in his hand.

It had gone everywhere, but mostly all over Bob's head. Everyone had frozen for a second, then Bob rose slowly and drippily to his feet and Gerard had bolted for the door.

Frank laughed to himself and rubbed his hands over his face. "Come on, Casanova," he said, kicking Mikey's foot. "We don't want to piss the techs off."

"Damn straight," said Alicia. She untangled herself from Mikey and pushed him until he was standing. "Go win bread, honey."

As they left, Frank felt a sharp sting on his ear and turned around to see Alicia grinning at him. "Sneak!"

She laughed and picked up the remote. "Eat it, Iero. I win."

Frank turned to Mikey, who said, "She's my girlfriend, man."

"You suck," Frank told him, and pushed him out of the door.

Soundcheck was boring as usual, lots of standing around while Bob had an intense conversation with some new guy who'd tried to alter his set up and Gerard sang half-lines and stared into space.

Frank hung back afterwards to talk to Cortez about a problem he'd had with his amp the night before, and when they'd got it figured out he wandered over to catering, craving a fake bacon sandwich.

Gerard was sitting outside, smoking and stirring a cup of coffee and intently reading a laminated list of Health and Safety rules that was standing on the table in a plastic holder.

"Hey," Frank stepped back when Gerard spun round so fast his coffee sloshed out onto the bench and spilled over onto the floor. "Okay seriously, me and you need to have a talk about the properties of liquids."

"You snuck up on me," Gerard said, eyeing Frank sort of warily. "What, you came to take out my other eye?"

Frank reached out but Gerard leaned back, leaving Frank with his hand in mid air like an idiot. "I'm not going to hurt you, for fuck's sake."

"You mean you're not going to hurt me again," Gerard said pissily, but he moved forward an inch and let Frank run his fingers gently over the thin skin by his eye.

The cut was like a nano-millimeter long, not even that. It was a tiny, raised pinprick under Frank's fingertip. Gerard's eyelashes brushed Frank's finger when he blinked, and Frank slid his hand down to cup the side of Gerard's face. "I think you'll live."

Gerard pursed his lips fussily. "No thanks to you."

"Oh, my God." Frank swung his leg over the bench and sat down in the puddle of cold coffee. It was totally gross, soaking instantly through his jeans. "I said I'm sorry, Christ."

"You're sitting in the coffee," Gerard said, his cheek still cupped in Frank's hand. His cheek hollowed against Frank's palm when he spoke. "You'll get wet. And smell like Mikey's apartment."

Frank said, "Yeah, the things I do for you," and leaned forward and kissed the corner of Gerard's eye. Now he could feel Gerard's eyelashes on his mouth, and it made his cheeks feel warm.

"Hmm," said Gerard. His lip bumped against Frank's thumb. "I don't know, kinda. Like do you think a patch might be cool? I don't want to rock a patch."

"You're not going to need a patch," Frank said. He moved his mouth away from Gerard's ridiculous eyelashes before he did something insane like licking them, which probably wouldn't even be sexy so he didn't know why that had popped into his head. When his mouth was a safe distance away he said, "It might be cool, though."

"I would rock a patch," Gerard said. He had his eyes wide open, looking straight at Frank. Frank looked back even though they were like an inch apart and it hurt to focus. "But I feel like it'd just be something else for people to fixate on, like the hair. You know?"

Frank nodded seriously. "I know."

"So I need my eye," Gerard said decisively, and sat back. Frank followed and Gerard said, "What are you doing?" and put his hands on Frank's chest, but didn't push him away.

"I got your nose, too," Frank reminded him, and kissed the pointy end of it. Gerard twitched it sideways and rolled his eyes, and Frank looked at his mouth, because it was right there under his nose, and said, "Where else did I get you?" as casually as he could, given that his whole face felt like it must be fucking crimson by now.

Gerard's mouth opened and then closed, and then Gerard put his cigarette in it and his lips tightened and then he exhaled smoke sideways but it still went into Frank's eyes because he was all up in Gerard's face, and Frank had to pull back to wipe tears away with his sleeve.

"I think that was it," Gerard said, and he took his hands off Frank's chest and flicked his cigarette away and stood up.

Frank grabbed his shoulders and said, "No, I think there was one more," but Gerard shook his head and stepped back. Frank tried to follow but the stupid bench was still between his legs so he ended up with one knee planted on it and his other foot twisted awkwardly underneath, and he held Gerard's shoulders harder for support because Gerard was still trying to move away. "Let me kiss it better, what the fuck."

Gerard tutted and pulled back sharply and Frank came flying off the bench and stumbled into him. Gerard wrapped his hands around Frank's wrists and lifted his face up, away from Frank, and said, "Seriously, you don't have to."

The thing was, though, that Frank wanted to. For completion. Or just to be able to say he had, when Gerard inevitably bitched about the whole rubber band incident until the end of time, or just because he fucking wanted to, dammit, and now Gerard was being an asshole when all Frank wanted to do was make him feel better.

Gerard was still trying to move back, so Frank trod on both of his feet to stop him getting away and leaned in, but he couldn't get up on tiptoe like that and Gerard was being a bitch and wouldn't tilt his head down like normal, so Frank ended up with his mouth pressed messily against Gerard's chin and his nose pushed in just above his top lip.

They didn't move for a second - Gerard's fingers tightened a little, and he breathed out what smelled like a cloud of pure coffee, concentrated to face-melting levels. His breath and skin felt really warm, probably because the air was so cold. Frank was very aware, all of a sudden, of how gross his wet jeans felt, and how weird they must look, practically holding hands while Frank stood on Gerard's feet like a little girl getting danced around at a wedding by her uncle.

"You're standing on my feet," Gerard mumbled, the words coming out all squashed because of the way his lips were trapped between Frank's nose and mouth. "You said you wouldn't hurt me and now you're standing on my feet."

Frank sighed and twisted his finger around to pat the back of Gerard's hand. "Yeah."

"The only thing I can come up with is that your whole life is one big game of Don't Touch the Ground," Bob said suddenly. He was standing a few feet away, eating a sandwich and watching them calmly.

Gerard let go of Frank's wrists all startled, even though Bob had seen them in way more compromising positions than this over the years. He tried to step away without waiting for Frank to get off his feet, so Frank got tipped backwards and ended up on his ass in the mud.

Bob saluted him with his sandwich. "I think that means you lose."

***

Gerard kept up the pissy act for a couple days after that. It probably wasn't noticeable to anyone else, but Frank could totally tell. Gerard made a point of sitting as far away from Frank as he could on the bus, and worked on his comic book project for hours and hours and hours and wouldn't let Frank see, and he refused to join in when they had an arm-wrestling competition even though Frank said he could use both hands.

He stayed away from Frank on stage, too. Which sucked, okay, to the point where Frank couldn't even take it. He could be crazy on stage, he knew that, everybody knew that, but in the middle of it all he could get off the floor and go over and lean against Gerard for a minute, feel his hand fist tight in Frank's shirt and it brought him back to himself a little, kept him from feeling like he was just going to spin right off the stage and explode.

Now Gerard wouldn't really look at him, as if he thought Frank would take eye-contact as an invitation to bash him over the head with a guitar, or something. He'd let Frank come to him if he wanted, but on the second night he only squeezed Frank's ass twice during 'Prison', and that's when Frank knew for sure something was wrong.

Not that Frank needed Gerard's help to play, fuck no, but he was their fucking frontman, their conductor, they took their cues from him, and now it was like he'd dropped his baton and was just standing with his back to Frank with his arms folded, and Frank didn't know when he was supposed to come in.

He tried to bring it up with Gerard, but he only got as far as, "It's like you've stopped waving your stick around," before Gerard laughed nervously and made an excuse about needing the bathroom, even though he'd just been, like, two seconds before. Either he was lying or he needed to get tested for diabetes.

So the next night, out of desperation and because Bob was all the way up on his riser and Ray said if Frank made him break another string on stage he'd garrote him with it, Frank went after Mikey.

"What the fuck?" Mikey hissed in his ear after Frank had humped his leg for a good eight bars.

"Seriously," Mikey warned after Frank put his tongue in his ear.

"Dude!" Mikey yelped after Frank stuck his hand between his legs from behind and tried to grab on. "Cut it the fuck out!"

Frank licked his neck and twirled away. Gerard didn't even seem to notice.

Apparently, though, Mikey brought it to his attention, because at around one a.m. on the bus Gerard stuck his head through the curtains of Frank's bunk and said, "Can I talk to you?"

Frank took his earphones out and said, "Don't you knock? I could have been jerking off."

"You can't knock on a curtain," Gerard said. "And you're not jerking off."

"But I could have been."

"But you're not!" Gerard said impatiently. "And you wouldn't have heard me if I had knocked, because you're listening to music. Which you don't do when you're jerking off anyway, which means this is a totally pointless argument, so shut up before I make you."

Frank pushed up onto his elbows and raised his eyebrows at Gerard. "Make me how?"

"Does it matter?" Gerard said, exasperated. Frank thought about explaining that there were various ways to shut someone up and some of them involved tongues and could, he'd heard, be pretty pleasurable, but then Gerard went on, "With my fist or something, I don't fucking know!"

Frank laughed, because the idea of Gerard doing anything with his fist was hilarious, and then he laughed harder because of Gerard's stupid indignant face. "Sorry," he giggled, trying to force his face into a serious expression. "I thought you were a pacifist?"

"Frank!" Gerard said crossly, slamming his hands down in frustration, and then he jerked and yelped and pulled his head out of the curtain. "Did you just kick me?"

"I don't know, Gerard," said Bob, "Did you just wake me up?"

"See, Bob could shut someone up with his fist," Frank told the curtain, and Gerard stuck his head back through it.

"Stop it," he said, quietly this time.

Frank held his breath for a minute and watched Gerard's carefully blank face. "Stop what?"

"You know," Gerard said, and then he pulled his head out of the curtain and Frank heard him getting into his own bunk.

Frank lay there while Bob started snoring again, and he lay there while Ray talked quietly on the phone and then eventually lapsed into silence, and he lay there until the tap-tap-tap of Mikey's Sidekick gradually slowed to a complete stop, and he lay there until Gerard started mumbling and tossing and turning, which meant he was asleep, but his brain was still going. He lay there for what felt like forever, thinking about what Gerard had said, until eventually Gerard shut up and went still.

He lay there until Gerard had been asleep for an hour, then got out of his bunk and folded down onto his knees in the aisle and pushed his head and shoulders into Gerard's bunk. Gerard was laying facing away from him with his hands folded up under his head.

"Gee," Frank whispered, touching Gerard's shoulder lightly. You had to wake Gerard up gradually if you didn't want an elbow to the face, something they'd all learned early on during the van days. "Gerard, wake up. Gerard. Hey, come on, wake up, man."

Gerard said, "Mmph," and twisted around to face Frank He blinked heavily twice and then closed his eyes again. "'Smorning already?"

"No, I just need to talk to you." Frank touched Gerard's face, because he was drifting off again right in front of Frank's eyes. "Gee, come on, this is important."

Gerard sighed and pressed his face into his pillow for a second, then opened his eyes and made a visible effort to wake up. "What's wrong?"

"I'm sorry about before," Frank whispered. "I won't do it again."

Gerard yawned and pulled his comforter further up around his face. "Don't worry about it."

Frank stayed where he was for a minute, but Gerard had closed his eyes and seemed to be over the conversation. "Okay," Frank whispered, and climbed back into his bunk.

He couldn't sleep. He tried lying on his back, arms folded like he was in a coffin, then down straight by his sides. Then he tried curling up on his side, and sprawling (as much as the bunks would allow) on his stomach, and spreading his comforter out nice and flat over him, but it didn't work. He checked the time on his phone. Three a.m.

Frank slipped out of his bunk and stuck his head back into Gerard's bunk again. "Gerard. It's me again."

Gerard woke up faster this time, and he looked distinctly less pleased to see Frank. "Frank, come on."

"Sorry," Frank lied, settling more comfortably on his knees. "It's just - what do you think I was apologizing for?"

Gerard rolled onto his back and put his hands over his face. He rubbed his eyes and sighed, "I wasn't aware there were multiple options."

"Yeah, well, I wasn't aware that you could tell us what we can and can't do on stage," Frank said a little loudly, and then cringed. Bob kept on snoring though, so they were okay.

Gerard rolled his eyes and hissed, "I don't care if you hump Mikey's head on stage, okay, but I do care if you're bugging him because you're pissed at me."

"I'm not pissed at you," Frank hissed back indignantly. "You're pissed at me!"

"I'm not pissed at you!" Gerard said incredulously, and Bob stopped snoring and Frank clapped his hand over Gerard's mouth and kept it there until he started again. Gerard shook him off and hissed, "Oh, Bob you don't wanna wake up, I see."

"Bob's more likely to put my head in the toilet than you are," Frank whispered.

Gerard looked at him for a minute, then shrugged. "Fair point. Look, I'm not pissed at you, you're not pissed at me, is there anything else?"

There was plenty more, actually, but thinking about it, this probably wasn't the time. "Nope, we're good," Frank smiled, and patted Gerard's forehead. "You should get some sleep."

Gerard snorted and Frank climbed back up to his bunk, grinning.

He waited for Gerard to go through his mutter-thrash-relative silence cycle again, and when it got to three forty-five he dropped back into the aisle and pulled Gerard's curtain open. "I can't sleep."

Gerard groaned and pulled his pillow over his head. "Frankie," he moaned. "For fuck's sake. We've got an interview at the ass crack of dawn tomorrow."

Frank lay his head down by Gerard's leg and snuck his fingers into Gerard's hand. "But insomnia's a curse, Gerard. I thought you of all people would understand."

"I've never met anyone who is less of an insomniac than you," Gerard mumbled from underneath his pillow. Then he pulled his head out and looked down. Frank made his eyes as big as possible. Gerard said, "Don't, you asshole."

"Don't what?" Frank said, biting his lip.

Gerard held his gaze for a minute and then laughed a little bit. "Fine," he said, shoving at Frank so he could swing his legs out of the bunk. "But you're answering all the fucking questions tomorrow."

Frank followed him into the lounge. Gerard headed straight for the coffee machine and Frank sat on the couch and grinned at him.

"What?" Gerard said, smiling nervously back at him. "Is my hair weird?"

"Your hair is always weird," Frank said, pulling his legs up onto the couch. "I thought that was the point."

Gerard ignored him, too busy squinting at himself in the little mirror on the wall. He picked up a pair of sunglasses that were sitting on the side and put them on, sliding them up to the top of his head so they pinned the longer pieces of his hair flat. "Better?"

"Infinitely," Frank said, clearing a bunch of crap off the couch. He piled the DVD cases up and placed Gerard's special marker set carefully on top. "Sunglasses at night are always a fashion Do."

"They're not over my eyes. And shut up, you're wearing a Yoo-Hoo shirt," Gerard said, but Frank didn't see what that had to do with anything. His Yoo-Hoo shirt was awesome. Gerard came over with two mugs and stood in front of Frank, looking meaningfully at him.

"What?" Frank said. Gerard handed him a coffee and looked at the spot Frank had cleared, and Frank sighed and moved into it. "You always want what you can't have."

"I always want to sit in the warm spot," Gerard corrected him, but when he sat down he snuggled into Frank's side a little, so Frank didn't bitch at him. Gerard sipped his coffee and gave a little happy caffeinated hum, and sighed. "You wanna play San Andreas on mute?"

Frank shook his head, then put it down on Gerard's shoulder, carefully. Gerard didn't move away, so Frank settled in a little closer. "GTA's no fun without the hooker voices."

"I'm so conflicted about it," Gerard said, pulling his legs up so his knees were touching Frank's. "Like, I'm supposed to be a pacifist. And a feminist. And the women in the game are so fucking objectified, you know?"

"Yeah," Frank agreed. "That's some serious oppression of pixels."

"I feel like it might be okay if there were some like, opportunity for redemption, you know?" Gerard went on, ignoring him. "But you just get paid for doing crime, and this is a guy who was framed, right? So I should be helping him to clear his name, not making him go around killing prostitutes. I mean, the opportunity for senseless violence is just ridiculous."

Frank smiled and pushed his face against Gerard's warm neck. "There's a small possibility you're taking it too seriously, my friend."

Gerard said, "Yeah, but you didn't let me finish. I was gonna say that despite all the violence, I still fucking love it, because it's awesome." He sipped his coffee and tipped his head against Frank's. "Do you think that makes me a hypocrite?"

"No," Frank said. "It is awesome. And it's not like you're going around trying to emulate it in real life."

"But there are kids who might!" Gerard said, sounding much aggrieved, and Frank decided to change the subject before he had to listen to Gerard's manifesto on video game ratings again.

Then he realized that they were both awake in the middle of the night and there was nothing else to do, and what the fuck had he woken Gerard up for if they were just going to sit around and talk about nothing? "They do put ratings on the games to keep kids away, you know," he said, as casually as he possibly could.

Gerard was not someone who ever passed up an opportunity to revel in the sound of his own voice, and he actually cleared his throat before beginning, "The problem with ratings is that it assumes the fucking parents are even going to look at the fucking box."

Frank stretched his feet out a little bit so he wouldn't get pins and needles, and settled in to listen.

Gerard was still talking when the light started to filter through the windows, and he was still talking when the bus came to a halt and shuddered into the stillness that always felt really weird the first few moments after a long drive, and he was still talking when Ray came bouncing into the lounge in shorts and his special running shoes that were designed by NASA or whatever, and started doing vigorous stretches, touching his fucking toes and all that bullshit.

"It's bad enough we have to do that before we go on stage," Frank told him, pushing at Gerard until he rolled off Frank enough for them to sit up properly. "I can't believe you volunteer for it every morning."

"You could come along," Ray said. He bent his arms at the elbows, held his fists in front of his chest and started swinging his torso from side to side. "If you weren't a dirty smoker who'd collapse and need carrying a whole ten feet back to the bus."

"Your face needs carrying," Frank said, which didn't make any sense but which Gerard apparently found hilarious, because he laughed his big, sudden, squawky laugh and promptly fell off the couch.

Frank rolled over and looked down at him, lying there on the floor, holding the back of his head and trying to say, "Ow," between giggles. Frank started giggling too.

"You guys," Ray said, rolling his eyes. Then he pushed the door open and lunged off in pursuit of physical fitness.

The interview actually went okay, because Gerard was over-caffeinated and at the hyper point of sleep deprivation, so he giggled a lot and touched everyone even more than usual, which made the interviewer happy because she got three touches on the arm, and made Frank happy because he got four knee-bumps and a hug. Ray seemed less thrilled with having Gerard's unwashed head of hair jammed under his chin every time he tried to open his mouth, but Mikey and Bob were practically asleep they were enjoying Gerard's interview-hogging motormouth mode so much.

Gerard did veer off-topic a little more than usual, most notably into a dreamy, enthusiastic speech about musicals in response to the question, "What's your favorite pizza topping?" but that was unusual, not unheard of. Frank was counting it as a win.

On the van ride back to the bus, though, exhaustion hit Frank hard, like it'd just been waiting for him to relax long enough for it to catch up. He had to keep forcing his eyes open and he banged his head on Bob's shoulder a bunch of times in the van and wished he'd sat next to Gerard, instead, who was in the very back seat probably getting a hole drilled through his temple by Mikey's collarbone.

Not that Frank couldn't curl up on Bob and go to sleep if he wanted. He totally could, no matter how grumpy Bob pretended to be about it. Or Ray, but sleeping on Ray was kind of a hazard, because his hair had this tendency to try and eat your face when you weren't paying attention. Gerard was best for sleeping on. For a lot of reasons.

They had a good few hours to kill before soundcheck, so they both crawled into their bunks and Frank was just drifting off into what was promising to be a very pleasant dream about space travel and muffins, when Mikey yelled something unintelligible from the lounge and Frank felt the familiar jolt of Gerard hitting his head on the bottom of Frank's bunk.

"Ow, fuck," Gerard muttered, and then called, "Mikey? What's wrong?"

"Bob took my Sidekick!" Mikey hollered. "He won't give it back!"

"Give him his fucking Sidekick, Bob" Gerard shouted.

"He's taking pictures of me," Bob yelled.

"Stop taking fucking pictures of him, Mikey," Gerard yelled back, and everything went quiet again.

Frank rolled over and sighed, letting the heavy sleepy feeling take over again. He was almost there when Ray started laughing like a fucking hyena on helium, and okay, if it was keeping Frank awake, when Frank could (he knew from experience) sleep through a tornado, it must be making Gerard's skin crawl.

On cue, Gerard made an unhappy, frustrated sound and then there was a swish which was his curtain opening. Frank jumped out of his bunk.

"I've got it," he said, touching Gerard's shoulder. He went into the lounge and found Ray laughing on the couch while Bob stood there with Mikey's Sidekick held high over his head. Mikey was taking pictures of him doing it.

"Stop it," Bob growled.

"You stop it!" Mikey said, taking another picture.

"I'll break it."

"I'll get Alicia to put these on MySpace." Click "On Bunny's MySpace."

"Cut it the fuck out!"

Click. "You cut it the fuck out!"

"Everybody cut it. The fuck. Out." Frank snapped. He grabbed Mikey's camera and pointed it at Bob. "We sneak around like kids who missed curfew so we don't wake you up, you big blond jerk, keep it down!"

"Yeah, Bob," Mikey muttered.

Frank turned on him. "And you! What the fuck is wrong with you, do you want Gerard to fall off the stage or something? He needs to sleep!"

Mikey opened and closed his mouth a few times, then shoved his hands into his pockets and looked moodily at Ray. "Ray was making noise too."

"Did you just actually call me a big blond jerk?" Bob said wonderingly. He didn't sound mad, just surprised. "Seriously, a big blond jerk? What the hell is that?"

Under normal circumstances, Frank would have taken this as a clear challenge to say the dirtiest things he could possibly imagine about Bob's mother and what she had begged Frank to do for her the night before, but he couldn't be fucked getting into it. He was so tired, and he was mad, he realized, and not just mad but feeling guilty because it was his own fault he was so tired, and it was his fault Gerard was so tired, and Frank hated feeling guilty, it always made him act like an asshole, and he hated looking like an asshole, and most of all he hated anything that was keeping Gerard awake.

"Give him his fucking phone," he said to Bob. Then he pointed at Ray and said, "And shut the fuck up."

He shoved Mikey's camera back into his hands, and then turned around and said, "And I'm sorry for being a dick!" and marched back to the bunks.

Gerard was lying there with his mouth hanging open and his hands over his eyes. He took them away and looked up at Frank. "Dude, are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Frank said shortly, making to climb back to his bunk, but Gerard grabbed his hand and tugged. Frank looked down at him and only remembered at the last second to wipe the pissy frown off his face. Gerard hadn't been keeping himself awake. "They'll be quiet."

"I don't even know if I can sleep now," Gerard admitted. He looked - not terrible, Frank had seen Gerard looking terrible, and this wasn't it, this didn't even come close. But his eyes were glassy and his skin looked stretched and dry, tiny lines around his eyes and mouth. He licked his lips and said, "I dunno, I'm like, overtired, or something. I can't get comfortable. My legs are fizzing and my hands feel like they're gonna float up off the fucking bed. You know that feeling?"

"Yeah." Frank bent down and touched Gerard's hair, pushing it off his pale forehead. "Do you want me to get you an extra pillow?" he said quietly, stroking Gerard's eyebrow because it felt like the thing to do. "I'll get you Bob's, you can drool all over it. You know he hates that shit."

Gerard laughed a little and shook his head. "No. Maybe I'll get up and draw or read or something. I got this great book about the Appalachian Trail."

"That sounds like sleep in a can," Frank said honestly, and shoved at Gerard until there was room for Frank to climb into the bunk with him. "Okay," he said, pulling the curtain closed. Gerard moved back and waited for Frank to get settled, then curled up against him with a tiny sigh. Frank stroked his back. "We're going to go to sleep now."

He put his leg over Gerard's to stop the fizzing, and held his hands to stop the floating. Gerard made grumbling noises and shifted around for a few more minutes, but eventually settled with his nose pressed against Frank's collarbone. "That's better," he said, a little muffled. "Mmm. Oh, I can maybe sleep after all. I hope so. Fuck. I'm so fucking tired."

"Ssh," Frank soothed, rubbing his cheek on Gerard's hair. "Go to sleep."

"Remind me I want to talk to Brian about oxymorons," Gerard said randomly. Then he let out a big breath and went all heavy and warm against Frank. "God. You're the best to sleep on. I always thought that."

"Thanks," Frank beamed at the top of the bunk and squeezed Gerard's hands. "I always thought it about you."

Gerard squeezed back, then said, "Plus when we're all wrapped up like this you can't throw shit at my face."

Frank didn't know what to say to that, so he just made a non-committal noise in his throat and held on until Gerard fell asleep.

***

A night off on tour that didn't have to be spent traveling was a rarity. A night off when Frank didn't feel so tired all he wanted to do was spend some serious bonding time with his pillow was rarer still, and a night off that coincided with a gig for a local band he wanted to see was like the holy fucking grail.

Gerard and Mikey stayed behind to?Frank didn't know, mindmeld or something, but Bob and Ray and a bunch of the crew came and it was loud and sweaty and fast and the pit was full of people who didn't give a fuck about My Chemical Romance, and Frank had the time of his life, even when he got kicked in the mouth during one of the singer's frequent crowd-surfing intervals.

"They were amazing," Frank enthused to Gerard the next morning, lisping slightly because of his swollen lip. "You should have been there, man, they kicked ass. I got their CD."

"I'll listen to it," Gerard said absently, pouring syrup on his pancakes. He totally would, too, and then he'd come up to Frank like a week later and start a conversation about it as if it was taking place immediately after this one. "What happened to your face?"

"Got kicked," Frank said happily, treating himself to a fifth sugar in his coffee. "Man, the lead singer? What was his name, uh, something stupid like Widget or Midget or something."

"I think the correct term is Little Person," Gerard said through a mouthful of bacon.

Frank ignored this impressive display of Gerard Not Listening, and went on, "He was totally crazy, like so into it. Kind of like you used to be, back in the day. It was awesome."

Gerard's fork scraped across his plate. He swallowed audibly and said, "Back in the day?"

"Yeah, you know, old school. I mean, he was just so tapped into the vibe, like, what's that word they always use in the magazines?" Frank tapped Gerard's hand, waiting for him to show off his vocabulary with the usual torrent of words that included at least seven which had nothing to do with what you were talking about (Gerard just wanted to let you know he knew them) but would always end up with the one you wanted. Gerard was just staring at him, though, and then the word came to Frank by itself anyway. "Dynamic! He was dynamic. A real dynamic frontman, yeah. Man, I haven't seen anyone work with the crowd like that in years, dude. So fucking great."

"I think," Gerard said stridently, sawing viciously at his pancakes, "That there are plenty of dynamic frontmen in modern music."

Frank ignored the familiar warning tingle he got in the base of his spine when he knew he was pissing someone off, and said, "Oh, sure, but not like this guy. I don't know, he just seemed so unpretentious, or something." Gerard made a strangled noise and Frank added lightly, "You could tell he was really speaking to the kids, you know. Really getting a message through."

"With his foot?" Gerard dropped his cutlery and folded his arms. Under the table Frank could feel his foot beating rapidly against the floor. "You can get a message to kids from the stage just as well as you can from the pit. It's not necessary to go throwing yourself in there every five minutes."

"I know it's not necessary." Frank helped himself to Gerard's uneaten toast. "He just seemed so unafraid."

Gerard's eyes were totally bugging out of his head by this point, and Frank had to bite really hard on the inside of his mouth to keep from cracking up. He munched his toast and gazed innocently back at Gerard, and eventually Gerard said, "Not afraid to kick people in the mouth, certainly."

Frank rolled his eyes. "Please, I've had worse. I've given myself worse. I've given you worse."

"Don't remind me," Gerard said snappily. "You're the reason I can only smoke out of one side of my mouth."

"Maybe that's it," Frank said thoughtfully. He tilted his head, examining Gerard. "I mean, maybe that's why you like to stay on the stage. Because you associate coming off it with-"

"You fucking my face up forever?" Gerard's hands were actually balled into fists, Frank noted gleefully, resting tight on his thighs. His jaw worked and he said tightly, "And don't take so much fucking credit, okay, the reason I stay on the stage is because people come to see our show, not grope my ass as it passes over their heads."

"Gerard," Frank said reasonably, "They all want to grope your ass. It's a nice ass."

Gerard looked momentarily mollified by the compliment, but then the non-body-image-related part of his ego kicked back in, or something, and he said, "I am a totally dynamic frontman. I am dynamic as shit, okay."

"Okay," Frank said easily. Gerard's whole face had gone red. It was really interesting. Frank thought about pointing it out, but instead he offered, "Look, I know you're afraid of crowds, right, and I think it's totally awesome that you've like faced it head on and conquered it, or whatever. I completely respect that."

Gerard let his eyebrows uncrease minutely. "You do?" he said warily

"Of course!" Frank reached for Gerard's hand, but Gerard pulled it out of reach, folding his arms again. Frank patted his knee instead. "You impress the shit out of me, but you know your limits and that's fine."

Gerard opened his mouth and his eyes as wide as they would go and fucking boggled, and Frank stuffed the rest of the toast hastily into his mouth so he wouldn't ruin everything by cracking the fuck up. He counted to ten, swallowed, and said, "You're not twenty-four anymore. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

Gerard stood up, threw his napkin dramatically down on the table, pointed his finger wordlessly at Frank's face, and stormed out of the room, passing Ray and Bob on their way in.

"Yo," Frank waved them over. "Where's Mikeyway at?"

"Still sleeping," Ray said, sitting down next to Frank. "What's up with Gerard, man, he looks like someone just got oppressed right in front of him."

"I made him mad," Frank said gleefully. "Pass the butter?"

That night on stage, Gerard strutted around like Prince on Viagra, shaking his ass and rambling about God knew what, working the kids into a seething frenzy between songs and encouraging them to mosh like maniacs during them.

He kept trying to catch Frank's eye all, "See?" but Frank avoided his gaze, pretending to fix something on his guitar. He'd seen all of this before, after all.

Gerard ranted about fighting for your right to be who you were: Frank went to talk to Mikey and drink some water. Gerard started smacking his own ass and making sexy/stupid noises: Frank went over and hung off Ray. Gerard ran over and pulled Frank up tight against him and stuck his hand under Frank's belt: Frank leaned back into him hard and arched, because he wasn't dead, but refused to turn his head. Gerard tip-toed along the very edge of the stage, windmilling his arms: Frank laughed at the way it made all the security guys shuffle nervously, and went to play at Bob for a while.

Gerard came to stand next to him, handed him his microphone, raised one eyebrow, ran back to the front and launched himself off the stage into the crowd: Frank had a fucking heart attack.

He wasn't the only one, either, the crowd went nuts and Worm started freaking out all to fuck. He ran out and started yelling and gesturing at the security team like an army general, alternatively shouting into his walkie-talkie and pointing it frantically at the crowd.

Frank just stood and stared, feeling like he'd been dropped headfirst into a whirlpool of shock and awe and oh my GOD. Ray bounded over and hissed, "Keep playing, motherfucker!" in his ear, and Frank did, his hands knowing what to do even if the rest of him was reeling around, right off the fucking map.

You couldn't see shit from on stage, the lights were way too bright and there was too much chaos in the crowd at the best of times, never mind when Gerard had just plunged himself right into the middle of it. Frank moved to the front of the stage as he played and tried anyway, though, scanning the crowd. Looking for a pretty dude with dark hair and black clothes in one of their crowds was pretty much like looking for a Hello Kitty purse in Tokyo, though, so in the end he couldn't do anything except wait, and wait, and play, and play, and eventually the security guys all gathered in a big knot and Frank saw Gerard emerge, getting tugged over the barrier limb by limb.

He had, Frank noticed as he climbed a little stiffly up the stairs by the side of the stage and got hurried into the wings by Worm, lost all the buttons on his shirt. Of course, being Gerard, he was wearing another one underneath. But still.

After a second Gerard came back on stage, wearing a new shirt, and the crowd went mental again, screaming their fucking heads off. Gerard's hair was insane and he was bright pink and looked fucking manic, grinning like a crazy person, tongue flicking against his sharp little teeth.

"You're crazy," Frank yelled in his ear, grabbing his wrist and holding tight, just to feel it. "You're a crazy motherfucker and I fucking love you."

Gerard laughed and shook his head and kissed Frank's cheek quickly, before running off to check in with Ray and say something in Mikey's ear. He waved at Bob and grabbed his mic and leaned on his stand, grinning and soaking up the noise from the crowd.

"You want to keep those buttons," he said, wiping sweat off his face with his forearm. "They're magic buttons, sewn on by our very own Big Worm's tender, beautiful fingers. And thank you for not dropping me, by the way. You are all my favorites."

Then he glanced down at the setlist taped by his monitor, glanced over at Frank, nodded, and away they went.

He seemed fine for the rest of the set - he wasn't throwing himself around, particularly, but Frank figured after all the extra effort he was probably pretty tired. He sounded great, though, and he took like a month to wind it up at the end, which was fine with Frank because when it was good like this, when it was fucking mind-blowing incredible like this, with an audience who were giving you everything because they knew they'd seen something really special, you never wanted to leave.

Eventually they had to bring it to a close, though, and Gerard practically pranced off the stage, blowing kisses as he went.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, Liza Minelli?" Ray laughed when they got backstage, grabbing Gerard into a hug.

Gerard laughed too, and moved his arm to hug Ray back and then immediately made a really upsetting noise and staggered back, scowling. "Fuck, fuck."

"What's the matter?" Frank tried to move forward but was blocked by Mikey, who slipped in under Gerard's arm in a fluid, practiced movement, holding him up.

"I think I broke a fucking rib," Gerard hissed, and you could tell when Gerard wasn't being a hypochondriac drama queen, because instead of sounding like the world was ending starting with his head/stomach/big toe, he just sounded like he wanted to punch stuff. This was definitely the punching stuff voice. "Fuck, motherfucker, that fucking hurts."

Mikey maneuvered him easily - Gerard wasn't having any problems walking, or anything - and got him to the dressing room in record time, bending his long limbs like a concertina to get Gerard settled onto the couch. "I'll get the medics," he said, and touched Gerard's hair briefly before he went.

"Wouldn't you have felt it before?" Frank said, perching gingerly on the arm of the couch. Gerard was stretching his torso out, leaning his head back against the wall. "If you'd broken it, I mean?"

"Adrenaline," Gerard gritted. He was sweating bullets. Frank felt like the worst person alive.

Ray crouched down in front of Gerard and rubbed his knee. "It's probably not broken, man, I think that would hurt more."

"Mmf," said Gerard, and then Worm came in and started yelling about how Gerard was the most irresponsible motherfucker on the planet, and how Worm was not going to explain to Mrs. Way about how her son had died tragically on his watch, so he had better never do anything like that ever again or Worm would beat him to death with his shoe.

Gerard laughed, and then cried out and grabbed for Frank's hand, squeezing it so hard Frank could feel the bones grinding. "Don't make me laugh, you asshole."

"Don't throw yourself off the stage, asshole," Worm said, his big arms folded.

Gerard rolled his eyes and shifted around, breathing in these shallow little gasps. "Come on, it was fucking awesome."

"I'm calling Brian," Worm fumed, and then he muttered, "It was pretty awesome," before storming out.

"Try not to move," Ray said. "If it is broken, you could puncture something."

"Puncture something?" Frank said. Oh, God. He was going to fucking throw up. "Jesus Christ. Gerard, don't fucking move. Don't fucking puncture anything."

Mikey came back with the medic and Bob. The medic listened to Gerard's lungs and felt him up - not in a creepy way. Frank checked because that had happened before - and asked a bunch of questions. Then he asked Gerard to move around a little bit, and Gerard bit hard into his bottom lip and made these horrible pained grunting noises under his breath, and if he hadn't been holding tight to Frank's hand Frank would totally have punched the medic in the fucking face.

Instead, he just held on anxiously and kept checking Bob's face for any sign of panic, because if Bob thought things were going to be okay, then they usually were. He'd been around.

"It's very unlikely it's anything more serious than bruising," the medic said eventually, when he'd had enough of torturing Gerard. "But if you want to make absolutely sure, you need to go to the hospital for an x-ray."

"No!" Gerard said immediately, because Gerard thought going to the hospital meant an automatic shot. "I'm all right!"

"They don't give shots for bruised ribs, Gee," Mikey said. He sat down next to Gerard and held his other hand. "Maybe we should-"

"I said I'm all fucking right," Gerard insisted in his I'm-a-fucking-diva-don't-fuck-with-me voice, and that was that.

The medic wrote Gerard a scrip for some anti-inflammatories (which Frank was going to make sure he took if he had to shove them down Gerard's throat himself) and an order to rest up and stay still as much as possible.

"That's great," Frank bitched to Bob while they were gathering up their things. "He's only a workaholic and the twitchiest motherfucker alive. Rest up, stay still, what the fuck bullshit is that?"

"For real," Bob agreed. "Ribs are a bitch, though, man, there's nothing you can do but sit tight and pray for ice machines."

At least, Frank thought on the ride back to the hotel, Gerard braced between Bob and Ray for stability, he could ice Gerard's ribs for him. Yeah, that would be good, he could kneel on the bed next to Gerard, bend over him and push up his shirt and oh Jesus, Jesus motherfucking cocksucking Christ, what the fucking fucking fuck was wrong with him? Normal people did not respond to bruised ribs this way, Frank was pretty motherfucking sure. As soon as the tour was over he was going to check himself into a rehab center for the sexually deranged, for fuck's sake.

"Dude," Mikey said, reaching over to touch Frank's shoulder. "Don't do that."

"Do what?" Frank said, and then realized he'd been banging his own head against the window and hadn't even noticed.

He didn't even try to follow Gerard into his room. Someone had called ahead and there was already ice waiting, and as Frank was trying to work the fucking stupid keycard to his own room, Mikey stuck his head out of the door to Gerard's.

"Are you coming in?" he said. He was holding a towel full of ice in his hand. It was dripping all over his shoes. There was no edge to his voice, but why would there be? Mikey didn't know that Frank had goaded Gerard into that stupid stunt, and he didn't know that Frank wanted to rub ice all over Gerard's body in a way that was totally not related to reducing swelling - quite the opposite - and he didn't know that Frank was a creepy skeezoid motherfucker who had just crowned himself the Worst Friend Ever in an elaborate and depressing ceremony inside his own head.

"No," Frank said, and he went inside his own room and lay fully-clothed on the bed. He could hear Mikey and Gerard talking quietly, and he could hear a phone ring, and he could hear water running, and then he couldn't hear anything at all.

He must have fallen asleep at some point, because his cell phone woke him up in the morning. He fumbled it open without looking at the display and mumbled, "Yeah?"

"Frank," Gerard said, "I'm dying."

Frank slammed the phone down, raced out of his door and threw himself as hard as he could at Gerard's, barreling straight through it and crashing into an undignified heap at the foot of Gerard's bed.

"-of boredom," Gerard said slowly, the phone still held to his ear. "Come and keep me company, my door's unlocked."

"I see that," Frank said in a strangled voice, because both of his arms were twisted up around his own neck. He untangled himself and stood up, dusting himself off. "Uh."

Gerard put his phone down and smiled. "Do you wanna watch something? I'd say let's play video games, but I'm not supposed to wave my arms around. Are you hungry? I'm going to order something, I think, but I don't know what yet. This is a fucking non-smoking room, Frank, can you believe that shit? Mikey got me this nicotine gum, but it tastes like shit and is like so not hitting the spot I cannot even tell you. I think I'm gonna make a break for it in a while. You'll help me, right?"

"Yes," Frank said to all of it, and went to sit on the bed by Gerard. He was wearing the girl's breakfast pants again, and a black T-shirt. "How's, you know. Does it hurt?"

"Like a bitch," Gerard said, making a face. "But only if I move around or laugh or breathe too hard. It's pretty okay if I stay still. And try to like, conserve oxygen."

Frank put his hand out to, he didn't even know, rub it better, but you couldn't rub a bruised rib better, could you, so he hovered it in the air and then put it down on the bed next to Gerard's leg. "I can't believe you did that."

"I know!" Gerard said, beaming. "Dude, you were so right, you know, I really fucking - I mean obviously it fucking kills now, and I wouldn't choose to get hurt or anything - but I really, it was just amazing. What a fucking rush, you know? I'd forgotten. Did it look cool?"

"I couldn't really see from on stage," Frank admitted, trying to curl his legs up onto the bed without jostling it. "I was pretty much just waiting for you to come out alive."

"Alive." Gerard rolled his eyes. "God, Frank, you're so dramatic."

Before Frank could point out the sheer injustice of that remark, Gerard's phone rang. "Shit," he said, looking at the display, then answered it. "Hey, Brian."

Frank absolutely did not want to hear Gerard telling Brian that Frank had convinced him to jump off the stage, so he patted Gerard's leg and mouthed, "I'll be back."

He went back to his own room to shower and change quickly. Then he sat on the bed and stared at the wall for a minute, just letting his brain catch up with the fact that he was alive and awake and ow, his fucking shoulder. Then he hung as far out of the window as he could and smoked a cigarette, and then he went back to Gerard's room and made them both coffee and brought it to the bed while Gerard finished up on the phone.

"You left my door open," he said grumpily, taking the coffee without saying thank you. "Anyone could have waltzed in here."

Frank sat down next to him and leaned back against the headboard. "Did anyone waltz in here?"

"That's not the point," Gerard huffed, and then he turned his face towards Frank and sniffed suspiciously and said, "Did you smoke without me?"

"What, you've got your gum," Frank said, but Gerard scrabbled at him until he moved closer and then pushed his face into Frank's hair and inhaled deeply.

"Oh, God," he moaned, his coffee tilting dangerously towards Frank's chest. "Oh, fuck, you smell good. Jesus, oh, God, I can't believe you fucking smoked without me, you fucking dick."

Frank did smell good most of the time, he knew that, and had been told so often. By Gerard, even, in a tone halfway between admiration and surprise, but he wasn't really used to getting sniffed and moaned at like this while they were both more-or-less in bed, so he allowed himself a few seconds of dry-mouthed silence while he tried to subtly tip Gerard's cup upright again.

"Fuck, you smell like fresh air, too, like cold or something, fall, I don't even know." Gerard rubbed his face in Frank's hair and pulled back to look up at him. "I haven't had a cigarette since last night," he said sadly.

"I can help you up, if you want," Frank offered, but Gerard made a face and put his head on Frank's shoulder. "Or we could just stay here."

"It hurts to get up," Gerard complained, "And I don't even know when I can take more painkillers." Right then an alarm on Gerard's phone beeped. "Oh," said Gerard, brightening.

They put the TV on while they were waiting for the pills to kick in, and Gerard laughed at a commercial for plant food and then immediately groaned. "Fuck. I wish you could kiss ribs better."

"I can gave it a shot," Frank said immediately, and then tried to cover by adding, "As long as I can do it through your skin. I'm not down with lip-to-bone contact."

"Someone I knew at SVA did a painting like that for their final project," Gerard said, and then he wriggled in place and sighed unhappily. "It's not even just the ribs, you know, it feels like, well, like I went head-first into a moshpit, I guess."

Frank rubbed his shoulder sympathetically and tried not to die from guilt. "Where does it hurt?"

"Everywhere," Gerard said, shifting irritably on the bed. "Fuck."

"Okay." Frank slid down to lie next to him, propping his head on his hand. He let his other hand slide across Gerard's collarbone to the opposite shoulder and squeezed. Comfortingly, like a friend would, not in a 'your injuries make me hot' way. "Where doesn't it hurt?"

"Nowhere," Gerard said fussily, and then changed his mind and pointed to the little birthmark, high up on his cheek. "Here, I guess."

"Okay," said Frank, and leaned up to kiss it. Gerard made a little noise and quirked his eyebrow. Frank kissed that too.

"Hmm," said Gerard, and Frank pulled back to look him in the face. Gerard looked back at him steadily. Frank's arm was trembling a little from holding himself up. His chest felt tight and he couldn't stop holding his breath. Gerard moved his closed mouth around, and then pointed to a spot on his jaw. "Here."

Frank kissed that, and he lingered a little more than was strictly necessary and thought that maybe he felt a little hitch in Gerard's breathing. He followed Gerard's finger to the patch of skin right under his ear, and he let Gerard's earlobe catch in the corner of his mouth when he kissed it and that was definitely a hitch, there was no mistaking that. He pulled back slowly and held himself over Gerard and waited, his heart banging some freaky rhythm inside his chest.

Gerard met his eyes and held them for a minute, and it was seriously the longest minute ever, Frank was about to declare time-manipulation officially possible, and then he very, very slowly pointed to his mouth.

Frank kept his eyes on Gerard as he leaned down a little, waiting for him to laugh or try to pull away, but he didn't. He just tilted his chin up slightly and closed his eyes, and Frank closed his too and kissed him.

It was nothing fancy; just the warmth of Gerard's lips and Frank's fingertips pushed into the soft skin under his jaw. Gerard breathed in through his nose and Frank pressed a little more deeply against his mouth, just a little, a little less comfort and a little more something else. He didn't try to use his tongue or open Gerard's mouth, and when he pulled back Gerard didn't look flustered or anything, just serious, as if he was concentrating.

Frank rubbed his nose against Gerard's, lightly, just to say hi, and Gerard sighed. "You know," he murmured without opening his eyes, "They totally do this in Indiana Jones."

"What?" said Frank, because he'd kissed quite a few people in his life and he'd sort of gotten used to hearing stuff afterwards that wasn't about Harrison Ford. "I mean - what?"

"Yeah, in Raiders of the Lost Ark," Gerard said. He opened his eyes. "When Indy and Marion are on the boat. After the big fight in the market."

"Uh," said Frank, watching Gerard's mouth move.

"With all the melons!" Gerard said impatiently.

Frank sat back on his heels. Clearly no more kissing was going to happen until this conversation was out of the way. "Is this after he gets chased by the big rolling ball?"

Gerard rolled his eyes. "Duh, that's right at the start. Man, I haven't watched that movie in months. We should watch them all on the bus, have a marathon." He paused to spit out his nicotine gum into his empty coffee cup. Then he said, "I would be a good Indiana Jones."

Frank laughed at the image of Gerard trying to crack a whip and getting it tangled around his head. "I don't know, man, I think Ray would be better. Or maybe Bob."

Gerard made a disappointed face. "Oh. I guess."

"You'd be good at the teaching part," Frank amended, folding back down onto his side again. "Boys bringing you apples. Girls writing 'I love you' on their eyelids."

"You'd be good at the last-minute hat-grab," Gerard smiled, pacified. "All the rolling around stuff."

"Worm is Sallah," Frank added.

"And Mikey can be Brody," Gerard finished, grinning. "Getting lost in his own museum."

"That's The Last Crusade," Frank reminded him, but it didn't really matter.

He helped Gerard up once the pain had eased off again, and Gerard walked by himself to the elevator. "We're still playing," he said when they were idling in the hallway on the next floor down, smoking. "I'll just need to keep relatively still. They gave me this sports brace thing to wear under my clothes."

"Where is everyone, anyway?" Frank asked when they were back in Gerard's room. Frank was taking Gerard's weight while he eased himself back onto the bed. "Don't we pay people to hang out with us?"

"Out," said Gerard, settling onto the pillows with a grimace. "Waving their arms around. Bending at the waist. Doing jumping jacks without a care in the world. Ungrateful bastards don't know what they have."

By the time they'd eaten lunch and watched a movie, Frank was starting to go a little stir-crazy. He couldn't exactly complain about feeling cooped-up when it was his own fault Gerard was out of action, though, so he kept quiet and tried not to fidget too much while Gerard fooled around on his laptop.

It was hard, though, the not-fidgeting, because the thing was, Gerard had Frank's fingers in his mouth. Frank didn't even think he knew he was doing it - Frank had put his hand out to point at something on the screen, and Gerard had caught it and held it on his chest, and Frank wasn't going to say no to hand-holding, obviously, so he left it there, and then at some point Gerard had lifted it up and started nibbling on the tip of Frank's index finger.

If it had been anyone else, Frank would have taken this as a clear invitation to fuck his mouth until they both went blind. As it was, well, Gerard's oral fixation was known across pretty much every land on the map, and also, nobody's anything was getting fucked with his ribs they way they were. Thanks to Frank.

Fucking hell.

"Isn't this the band you went to see?" Gerard said suddenly. He stopped sucking Frank's fingers and pointed their joined hands at the screen. "Is this the guy? The dynamic foot in your face guy?"

"Yeah," Frank said distractedly, and Gerard hummed and put Frank's finger back in his mouth. He bit around the knuckle and Frank managed, "Dude, do you know you're fellating my digits?"

"They taste like cigarettes," Gerard said, all reasonable. "He doesn't look all that dynamic to me."

"Uh huh," said Frank. Gerard worried Frank's knuckle a little more, then let it go, then sucked the tip of his ring finger into his mouth instead and moved his tongue around it, slippery and hot. "Maybe he was making up for it with face-kicking."

"I didn't kick anyone in the face when I was in the pit," Gerard said. He sounded smug. And garbled, because he was rubbing Frank's wet fingertip over his bottom lip.

Frank fisted his other hand in the sheets - seriously, what was Gerard doing? If this was payback Frank was totally up for more of it. "No, you just broke yourself."

"It was your idea," Gerard said, looking at him out of the corner of his eye.

It was funny how a room could suddenly shrink seven sizes, Frank thought. He stared desperately at a tiny crack in the paint on the wall, willing it to open up enough for him to crawl inside and die. And Gerard was still looking at Frank, this little sideways gaze and Frank's finger was still pressed against his mouth. It was making his lip all pouty and Frank couldn't fucking breathe because he didn't know what the fuck he was supposed to say.

'Sorry I like kissing you better so much it turned me into a freaky sadist asshole' was what came to mind, but when was that ever the right thing to say? Instead Frank forced a laugh and said, "If only I'd known you were so out of practice you'd fall to pieces the minute anyone breathed on you too hard."

Gerard got a weird expression on his face for like this split second, just a tiny flash of annoyance or disappointment or maybe he just had trapped wind, who the fuck knew. Then it was gone and he bit Frank's finger hard enough to hurt and said, "Okay, seriously, I gotta have another smoke or I'm gonna chew this right off."

"I'd still play," Frank said, stumbling over his words in his eagerness to change the subject. He got up on his knees and offered his shoulder to Gerard. "I wouldn't need a sissy sports brace or anything."

"Yeah," said Gerard, taking a deep breath and wincing in anticipation, "You're a trooper, Frankie."

***

Before they went on stage that night, Frank walked into the dressing room and found Gerard standing there with no shirt on, looking terrified.

"Frank!" he said, "Shut the fucking door!"

Frank kicked it closed and hurried over to him. "What's the matter, what is it?"

"I can't get this stupid fucking brace thing on by myself," Gerard said, "It hurts too fucking much. And Mikey was helping me and then Bob came in and he said something about the fans paying millions for the chance to strap me up, and they've gone outside to run a fucking auction, okay, this is the worst day of my life, I swear to God, you have to get me into this thing and get my fucking shirt on before they come back or I will die."

Frank laughed. "Dude, they're just trying to freak you out. I just saw them, they're hanging out with Cortez."

"They're probably getting him to help!" Gerard said hysterically. "Are you going to fucking help me or not?"

"Okay, okay, chill!" Frank grabbed the brace off the table and motioned at Gerard. "I don't know, can you lift your arms a little?"

"Yes," Gerard huffed, doing so. "I'm not a fucking invalid."

Frank rolled his eyes and passed the brace around Gerard's waist. He pulled the edges together and looked up at Gerard. "Is that tight enough?"

Gerard shifted from foot to foot and moved his arms experimentally. "Little tighter." Frank adjusted it, and Gerard said, "Tighter," and Frank adjusted it again, and Gerard said, "Tighter, Frankie, I'm not going to fucking break!"

Frank said, "Fine!" and yanked at it, and Gerard immediately yelled out something that didn't even sound like English.

"What the fuck?" he snapped, glaring. "Now I can't even fucking breathe!"

"Jesus, stop being such a bitch!" Frank snapped back. "Just stay still and let me fix it!"

Gerard said, "Ugh!" and stuck his arms out stiffly to the side, which obviously hurt him because he bit his lip hard, but he didn't make any noise.

Frank unfastened the brace and started again, tugging at it firmly but keeping his finger tucked under the side so he could make sure Gerard's skin wouldn't pinch. He smoothed the fastenings closed and looked up at Gerard's face. "How's that?"

"Good," Gerard said sulkily. He looked at himself in the mirror and grinned, suddenly. "I could have used this when I was in drag, fuck. Check out that waist-to-hip ratio."

"You look like a weight lifter," Frank told him, and Gerard rolled his eyes. "A weight lifter with zero muscle tone and too much make up."

"I think any make up would be considered too much for a weight lifter," Gerard said, still checking himself out. "But I'd totally support their right to wear it anyway."

The brace kind of dug in at the edges, making the soft flesh around Gerard's hips and middle stick out between the brace and his jeans.

It was going to leave marks, Frank was pretty sure. When Gerard took it off there'd be red lines marking his skin, like the ones he got when he wore this one pair of pants he had that were like two sizes too small but Gerard refused to accept it and wore them anyway, even though the cuffs had torn off and there was a hole over the back pocket big enough for anyone to stick their hand in and cop a feel of Gerard's ass, if the mood took them.

Frank knew, because the mood had taken him plenty of times. And he'd seen Gerard peeling those jeans off, too, and he'd seen the marks on his skin and it had never occurred to him, not once, that in the future he'd be standing there staring at Gerard, wondering what it would be like to help him out of the sports brace after the show, see those marks and drop to his knees and put his fingers and his mouth on them and run his tongue over the grooves in Gerard's skin.

Of course, it had also never occurred to Frank that he would go insane.

"I have to go," he said, moving backwards towards the door. "I have to, uh, phonecall a sandwich?I mean get one, and - bathroom."

"What the fuck are you babbling about?" Gerard said as Frank scrabbled behind himself for the handle. "You can't go, I'm still shirtless!"

"I know," Frank said desperately, and he got the fucking door open at last and turned around and went face-first into Toro, who was taking up the whole doorway with his giant hair and arms and chest.

"You're the smallest person alive," he said mildly, setting Frank back on his feet. "Therefore it's your responsibility to watch where you're going."

"Sorry," Frank said, too freaked out to come up with a comeback. "Gerard needs help getting dressed."

Ray sighed and nodded gloomily. "Figures I'd be just in time for that."

"You're just lucky, I guess!" Frank slapped Ray's shoulder and slipped past him and made a break for the hall.

He made it to the bathroom and stood there leaning heavily on the sink, staring at himself in the mirror. He didn't look like a creepy sadist. But neither did Christian Bale, and that hadn't ended well for anybody.

He just needed some fucking space, he decided, splashing water on his face. He needed to not be around Gerard when he was half-naked or desperate for a cigarette or oh, fuck, what if he needed help showering? What if he wanted to take a bath?

Eventually even Gerard would want to wash, Frank was pretty sure. And Frank would not turn down the chance to get Gerard wet and soapy, okay, even if it wasn't for sex purposes, but he was a little scared that given his current state of mind he might end up forcing Gerard's head under the water just so he could give him the kiss of life.

The thing was, though, that Gerard was still in pain. On stage he gave as much as he could, Frank could tell that, but whenever he turned away from the crowd he kept grimacing, and his movements were stiff and after the show he stood in the dressing room with his head down, gripping the edge of the table and breathing really slowly through his nose for a really long time.

Mikey started helping him out of his shirt, and Frank went out to say hi to the fans. He always did that when he could. It wasn't because he didn't want to know if he'd been right about the marks, or anything.

Mikey seemed happy to deal with Gerard-duties for the next couple days: helping him in and out of his bunk/clothes/brace/fits of boredom and frustration, and while Frank couldn't stop himself from making anxious enquiries every time he got Mikey alone, he could stop himself from volunteering to take over. And it helped, it really did, he didn't get any creepy urges to wave a needle at Gerard just so he could soothe him through the freak-out, or anything.

It couldn't last, though, and on the third day when Gerard was asleep in his bunk Mikey came into the lounge and announced, "Alicia's coming back out for a few more days."

"Cool," said Bob, "Can you ask her to bring my hat that she borrowed?"

"I can ask," Mikey shrugged, in a way that made it clear Bob was never going to see his hat ever again. "So, someone needs to help Gee after the show tonight."

"What?" Frank said, dropping his book in a panic. "Why?"

"Because I'd like to spend my free time with her, rather than in the shower with my brother," Mikey said, and then looked confused when Ray cracked up.

Frank picked his book up again and stared at it, and pretended he couldn't feel Mikey looking at him all expectantly. There was a little silence, and then Ray said, "I already had to dress him once. It's totally Bob's turn."

"I'll do it," Bob said. "It's cool."

"Shouldn't he be pretty much okay by now?" Frank said, turning a page he hadn't read in an attempt to look casual. "I mean, it's just bruising, right?"

"It's mostly just the brace and stuff," Mikey agreed. "But it still hurts to lift his arms. He wants to wash his hair."

Ray cracked up again and thumped Bob's knee. "You're going to wash his hair?"

"You wouldn't wash my hair if I couldn't do it myself?" Bob said, raising his eyebrow. "You're a shitty friend, Ray Toro."

"Would you wash mine?" Ray challenged him. Bob thought about it for a minute, and then said,

"If I could find a bottle of shampoo big enough, sure."

While they were checking into their hotel, Frank said to Bob, "Don't forget you're helping Gee tonight."

When they were hanging around at soundcheck, he added, "You're still good to help Gerard, right?"

When they were in the dressing room, he told Bob, "Don't make the water too hot. He's a bitch when you burn him."

When they were riding back to the hotel, he checked Gerard wasn't listening, then tapped Bob on the shoulder and said, "And don't get soap in his eyes."

"Frank," said Bob, "I have a concept of personal space, which I understand is confusing to you, but I have actually washed a person's hair before."

"It's like I don't even know you," Ray said, turning around to join in. "You've got this secret hair-washing obsession you've been hiding. Anything else I should know about?"

"It was me who came on your Playboys and stuck the pages together," Bob said, and Ray had a big freakout even though everyone knew it wasn't Bob, it was Cortez.

Frank's room wasn't all that near to Gerard's, and he was actually glad. If he'd had to lie there knowing Bob was washing Gerard's hair in the next room he would have been up against the wall with a glass, or something. As it was he called some friends in Jersey, and then his Mom, and then watched TV for a little while, and he was thinking about maybe going to bed when his phone beeped.

It was a text message from Gerard that read, 'Bob missd tru calling inlife. P.S. Do u have smokes im Out'.

Frank thought about lying and saying he was out too, or pretending he was already asleep, but as a smoker he couldn't actually find it in himself to withhold cigarettes from a fellow addict, much less from Gerard, so he grabbed the half-pack he had left and wandered down to Gerard's room.

The door was cracked and Gerard smiled when Frank pushed it open. "Hey, can you close that behind you? I got Bob to leave it open so I wouldn't have to get up to let you in."

"What if I'd been asleep?" Frank said as he clicked the door shut.

"I would have died," Gerard said gravely, and held his hands out.

Frank tossed him the cigarettes and Gerard latched on gleefully, fumbling the lighter in his haste to get one lit.

"Oh, yeah," he moaned on the first exhale, his toes wriggling. "Fuck. Thanks, man. I don't know, I hate not having any cigarettes. It's the worst. I'm so nervous if I don't know where my next one's coming from."

"You're welcome," said Frank. Gerard's hair was wet and he was wearing pajamas and he looked all pink and clean and inviting. The bastard. Frank stayed by the door. "Um, so."

"So Bob was like, a fucking masseur in a previous life, shit, I almost fell asleep," Gerard said, ashing into a Coke can. "Fuck, I might never wash my hair again, I'll just pay Bob to do it instead, he's got really great hands, fucking gentle and firm, and he didn't get soap in my eyes and why are you so twitchy, motherfucker, come and sit the fuck down."

The abrupt change in subject took Frank by surprise and he was already sitting by Gerard before he even really knew what he was doing. Gerard made a happy noise and put his damp head on Frank's shoulder. "Want one?" he said, holding up the smokes.

"They're mine," Frank said, taking one.

"Not anymore." Gerard handed him the lighter and snuggled down a little, sighing. "I think I'm getting better. I still can't sleep on my front or like jump up and down or anything, but I got dressed by myself."

"Awesome," said Frank, feeling like he was congratulating a five-year old on tying their own shoes.

Gerard nodded, his cheek rubbing against Frank's shoulder. "My feet are cold, though, and I can't bend down that far. Can you get me some socks?"

Frank went to Gerard's suitcase and dug through it until he found a pair of socks that looked relatively clean, sort of. He knelt up on the bed and started rolling one over Gerard's foot. "You know," he said, ignoring the bizarro part of his brain that was insisting Gerard had sexy ankles. They were just ankles. Frank might be a creepy sadist but he was not going to develop a foot fetish. "When I decided to become a rock star, I kind of imagined it as being a little more glamorous than this."

"I've got someone putting my socks on for me," Gerard said smugly. "I think I'm doing okay."

Frank rolled his eyes and put Gerard's other sock on for him. "How do you not sleep on your front, anyway? What if you roll over while you're sleeping?"

"It fucking hurts and I wake up." Gerard sighed dramatically and looked at the ceiling. "In the bunk I like wedged myself in with pillows, but I don't know what I'm going to do in this big bed, all alone."

"Are you for real?" Frank said, grinning. "I've seen pornos that started with that line."

"I can't have sex until it hurts less," Gerard said matter-of-factly. "And nobody in a porno has ever wedged themselves in with a pillow because of a fucked-up rib."

"Yeah, you've been watching the wrong porn," Frank said, or that's what he thought he said, because his mouth was moving on autopilot while the rest of him was frantically trying to come up with a position that wouldn't jostle Gerard's ribcage at all. "Um, did you just say-"

"I know it might not be the best night's sleep ever for you," Gerard interrupted him, his face a little anxious, "But I just figured if you were here then I could put the pillows on the other side, or something? And I move around less when I sleep with you, I think, anyway. Do I?"

"Yeah," said Frank, faintly.

"Okay then!" Gerard said cheerfully. "Can you help me up? I gotta use the bathroom."

Frank got him off the bed and then sat down on it and stared at the closed door to the bathroom. Then he stood up again and stripped his clothes off so fast he almost strangled himself with his belt, and dived under the covers before Gerard had a chance to change his mind. Then he realized he'd have to use the bathroom too, and also that he was being kind of presumptuous, so he got up and started trying to yank all his clothes back on, and Gerard came out when Frank had one sock on and half an arm in his T-shirt.

"You don't waste any time," he said, grinning. He came over to the bed and Frank stood up to ease him down onto it, propping a pillow behind Gerard's head. Gerard looked up at him all innocent. "Thanks. You can use my toothbrush."

Gross. "Mine's just down the hall," Frank said, pulling his shirt all the way on.

"Okay," Gerard said, waving his hand all whatever. "Don't take too long, though. I'd hate to fall asleep and hurt myself while you're fucking flossing with a sunbeam or whatever it is you do in there that takes so fucking long."

Frank left his other sock on Gerard's floor as punishment - a punishment to whom, he wasn't sure. Not like Gerard gave a shit about dirty socks - and sped down the hall to piss and wash and brush his teeth and take his sock off and put on sweatpants. Then he stood in front of his suitcase for a few minutes agonizing over whether or not he should put on a new T-shirt. Frank didn't like to sleep in the same clothes he'd worn all day - he didn't like to sleep in clothes at all, actually, but this really didn't seem like the time. But he also didn't really want to waste a clean shirt on just sleeping.

He decided on no shirt at all (and grabbed his pillows, because Gerard was totally going to use the ones from Frank's side of the bed as his makeshift bolster, Frank just fucking knew) and scurried back down the hall furtively, even though if anyone came out and saw him they wouldn't think it was weird he was heading for Gerard's room while he was half-naked. They'd all seen him do that before. It was just that now Frank felt like he had a giant tattoo on his chest that said 'CREEPY SADIST SEEKS BRUISED NERD' in big sparkly gothic letters.

They might think it was odd that he was carrying pillows, too. Frank was grateful to slip back into Gerard's room and shut the door behind him. "Hey."

Gerard was lying flat in the bed with a huge lump under the covers next to him that Frank assumed was pillows. He had to crane his neck a little to look at Frank. "You're not wearing a shirt," he said in an interested voice.

"Yeah?" Frank said, but Gerard seemed to have just wanted to point it out, so Frank went over and got into bed with him.

"I know you usually like this side," Gerard said as Frank was pulling the covers over them. "But this way you can lie against the side of me that doesn't hurt. What do you think?"

"I don't care," Frank said fervently. He laid down next to Gerard - and he'd been totally right about the fucking pillows - and Gerard fussed until Frank's head was tucked into the crook of his shoulder and Frank's arm was slung around his hips. Frank said, "I'll hurt you if I move in the night."

"Whatever, put your fucking leg over mine," Gerard bitched, "And stop holding your breath! It's like you've never cuddled anyone ever."

Frank rolled his eyes and put his knee over Gerard's leg, wedging his hand down in the pillows so it wouldn't move. "How's that?"

Gerard wriggled a bit, tutting to himself, then stilled and sighed. "Mmm. Perfect."

Gerard's hair was damp against Frank's forehead, and he smelled really good, warm and clean. It was pretty rare to get this close to Gerard immediately after he'd washed - he had this weird habit of showering before they went on stage, which was completely bizarre, like he wanted to leave it the least possible amount of time before he got all sweaty and gross again. Not that Frank was opposed to being close to Gerard when he was sweaty, of course, but he could still appreciate the novelty. And he could also appreciate what a bitch it was that the one time Gerard was clean enough that Frank would consider putting his tongue pretty much anywhere, and was close enough to do so, he was out of action.

At least the guilt was keeping him from having any totally inappropriate reactions to Gerard's incapacitation. Well, for now. By this point Frank was so out of tune with what his dick thought about the situation that he half expected it to detach itself and fly at Gerard with a knife.

"Don't you think, Frankie?" Gerard said, and Frank had no idea what he was talking about but he said 'yeah' anyway, because that was usually the right answer. And apparently it was, because Gerard went right on talking until Frank wasn't aware of anything but his voice, until it filled Frank's head and squeezed out all the horrible images, no room left. He kept on talking until Frank fell asleep.

He dreamed he was slicing the skin off Gerard's hands with a razor, and woke with a shout to find Gerard's face about an inch away from his.

"It's over," Gerard was saying urgently, still flat on his back, still safe between the pillows and Frank. "It's just a dream, Frankie, it's okay, it's over now."

Frank flailed his hand out to turn the light on, then pressed his face into the pillow and took a few deep, damp breaths, eyes screwed tight shut against the dream. He felt like he was gonna hurl. "Why didn't you wake me up?" he mumbled through a mouthful of cotton.

Gerard squeezed Frank's hands where they were wrapped around his own. "I tried, but you were holding my hands so tight I couldn't reach."

"Oh," said Frank, and pulled his face out of the pillow to look at Gerard. Gerard's neck was twisted right round - Frank shook his hands free and pushed up on his elbow so Gerard could look at him straight on. "Fuck, that was horrible."

Gerard murmured something sympathetic and rubbed his knuckles against Frank's arm. "You wanna tell me what it was about?"

"No," said Frank automatically, then, "Yes," then, "Fuck, I don't fucking know." He dropped his head and breathed a little more, just feeling the back of Gerard's hand stroking Frank's chest and belly, and sneaking glances at his other hand, which was laying curled and totally un-sliced on his chest. "I'm sorry," Frank said. He felt shaky all over, hot and sick. "I was hurting you. Fuck. Gerard, I don't even know. I'm like a crazy person."

Gerard's lips touched Frank's temple, and Frank lifted up and looked at him. He was wearing a face stuck halfway between 'This interviewer is a total moron' and 'OH MY GOD YOU GUYS LOOK A BABY SQUIRREL'. "It was just a dream," he said, pressing his knuckles against Frank's collarbone.

"You don't know what I was doing," Frank said miserably, and Gerard shook his head.

"It's over now," he said, and Frank didn't know if he meant the dream, or Frank's descent into madness, or what, but Gerard tilted his chin and when Frank kissed him, a real honest-to-God no-bones-about it kiss this time, no bullshit, Gerard's mouth opened instantly under his.

"I'm sorry," he said again, right into Gerard's mouth, and Gerard mumbled something in reply, 'It's okay' or 'Shut the fuck up' or 'I saw this thing on the Discovery Channel about moss' or whatever, it didn't matter, what mattered was that Gerard didn't pull away or ask Frank to stop, and he didn't do either of those things, just lay there and let Frank kiss them both hard and breathless.

"Frankie," he said when the kiss broke. His voice was raspy and his mouth was red. "Frankie, just - we can't okay, it hurts."

"Shit, okay, sorry. Again," Frank said, and he flopped onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, breathing hard. He snuck in a brief 'I know, I know' squeeze to his dick, and turned his face to look at Gerard. "I swear to God, man, if you try and give me a speech about this being a natural reaction, I will fuck you up."

Gerard laughed, and then winced, and shook his head. Frank looked him up and down thoughtfully - he didn't think he'd ever seen a grown man wearing Star Wars pajamas and a hard-on before.

"It's kind of sexy, though, isn't it?" Gerard said thoughtfully, and Frank had a brief internal struggle over the fact that it totally was before Gerard added, "Not being able to do anything, I mean?"

"No," Frank said firmly. "That shit hasn't been sexy since I was fifteen and hearing about it happening to other people."

Gerard grinned. "I don't know, I mean, at the time it was frustrating, of course, but when you think about, you know, all those elongated make-out sessions, and getting all worked up and then having to wait until you got home to jack off because their parents were in the next room, like, that's pretty hot, right?"

"There is nothing hot about parents," Frank said.

Gerard ignored him. "Delayed gratification, pushing the boundaries of what they'll let you do...three hours fully-clothed on a single bed trying to stealth-hump their leg just so you can get some fucking friction -"

"Stop right there," Frank interrupted, covering his eyes with one hand and fisting the other one in the bedspread so he wouldn't just stick it down his sweatpants. "It's hard enough without thinking about you humping things, Jesus."

"Not that I was getting friction from anywhere other than my right hand when I was fifteen, of course," Gerard went on, still ignoring him, the bitch. "Seventeen, though." He sighed and Frank could feel him shifting around, stretching. Then he said, "I haven't jacked off since I got hurt."

Frank whipped his hand off his eyes and stared at him. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah," Gerard said warily. "What? It hurts when I tense up."

"It's been like four days!" Frank said incredulously. He held up four fingers to illustrate. "Four whole days!"

Gerard raised his eyebrows. "You've never gone four days without jacking off?"

"Sure," Frank said, "In the hospital. And there was this one time I went like eleven years, but then I discovered my dick."

"It hurts!" Gerard said again, starting to scowl a little like he always did when he didn't get why whatever he was doing was weird. "And anyway four days isn't that long a time, okay, not everyone's a sex maniac."

"I'm not a sex maniac!"

Gerard scrunched his mouth up and nodded to himself. "You're a little bit of a sex maniac."

"I'm not," Frank repeated, but his heart wasn't in it to argue, really. He totally was a sex maniac. Probably he should get treatment for it, but the thing was he had this theory that if he could just fuck Gerard's brains out a time or million - gently! - he'd be fine.

Except he couldn't. And it was all his own fault. Karma sucked.

Gerard was warm all along his side, and Frank's toes were resting on top of Gerard's foot. Frank tapped them and said, "Isn't it uncomfortable to sleep on your back all night?"

Gerard made an unhappy noise and rubbed his foot against Frank's. "Yeah, man, I'm so fucking stiff, especially in the morning. I'd kill for one of those massages, you know the ones you get in, fuck, where is it, Thailand or somewhere, with those chicks who walk on your back? It feels like it needs to get cracked, or something."

"I'm not walking on you, but I could give you another backrub in the morning," Frank offered. "If you want."

Gerard took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Well, but how'm I gonna hide my hard-on if I can't roll over and drill a hole through the mattress?"

"You're not hiding it now," Frank pointed out, choosing to ignore the tent in his sweatpants for the time being. "And why didn't you say anything, motherfucker? Or after that time when we were rolling around? You just let me walk around feeling like a huge creep and all the time you wanted my ass."

"I wasn't sure what you wanted, yet. Usually people who want to get into my pants don't try and cause me bodily harm," Gerard said reasonably. "And anyway, if I pursued a romantic relationship with everyone I ever got hard over, my little black book would be a lot fuller."

"You don't have a little black book," Frank said. "You think they're disrespectful."

Gerard clicked his tongue irritably. "My metaphorical little black book. Whatever. The point is, you weren't exactly wearing a sign that said 'Date Me Gerard'."

"I had a hard-on while I was on top of you," Frank said flatly. "That's like a universal sign, okay."

Gerard shrugged. "You once got a hard-on at a Kiss tribute concert."

"I was sitting on a speaker!" Frank turned onto his side and propped his head on his hand and gave Gerard a hard stare. "You know what, I don't even think you're in pain anymore. I think all this high-school make-me-wait we-can't we-can't bullshit is just punishment."

"Punishment for what, all your grade-school pulling-my-pigtails-in-the-yard-because-you-like-me bullshit?" Gerard started moving his arms around, trying to push himself up. Frank helped him and Gerard picked up the cigarettes from the nightstand. "It won't kill you to wait a few days."

"It wouldn't have killed you to wait until morning for a smoke," Frank said grumpily. "But I still brought them to you."

"Yes," Gerard lit two and handed one to Frank. "That's the same. Bringing me cigarettes is exactly like deciding to risk our friendship and the band so we can-"

"If you say 'pursue a romantic relationship' again I'm outta here," Frank interrupted.

"I was gonna say so we can have the least enjoyable sex ever," Gerard said, smiling and blowing smoke at the ceiling. "I kind of, you know," he stopped and looked away, then hunched his shoulders and said awkwardly, "I kind of already decided the other thing."

Frank blinked. "You did?"

"If you want, I mean," Gerard said hurriedly. He turned back to look earnestly at Frank's face. "Obviously this is a two-person deal. Isn't it?"

Frank looked at Gerard's big round eyes and his stupid wonky bottom lip, caught in his freaky little teeth, and his giant bed-hair that should have ruined it but somehow made him look even harder to say no to, and even if it hadn't, Frank didn't want to say no anyway. "Yeah," he said. He took Gerard's cigarette and put it out, and his own, and got up on his knees and put his hands on Gerard's face. "Definitely."

"Okay," Gerard beamed, and Frank bent down and kissed him, really going for it this time, now that everything was decided and forgiven and he could.

Gerard liked: having his tongue sucked, having his lip tugged, having Frank's tongue as far as possible down his throat, having Frank's hands in his hair, returning all of these favors. He did not like: having to chase Frank's mouth around for more kisses, stopping for breath, or Frank trying to be careful.

"I thought you said it hurt," Frank breathed, running his hands down Gerard's arms.

Gerard gripped his hands and said, "Kiss me, cocksucker," and who was Frank to argue with that?

His back was starting to ache, but he didn't care - not when Gerard was tipping his head back and gasping and shifting from side-to-side in a way that Frank knew only too well.

"Let me," he said against Gerard's mouth, letting go of one of Gerard's hands so he could slide his fingers under his waistband and tug a little. "Come on, I'll blow you or something, you don't even have to do anything to me."

"I'm not gonna not reciprocate, who the fuck do you think I am?" Gerard said, pulling his waistband back up. "And I don't want our first time to be all tied up with pain and immobility when I think about it, okay."

For fuck's sake. "Stop changing your mind about whether it hurts!"

Gerard shook his head. "I'm serious. Leave my pants alone."

Frank groaned and flopped back down onto his front. "You're really committed to this just-like-high-school-crap, huh?"

"Yes," Gerard said smugly. "And don't hump the fucking mattress, I can see your ass moving."

Gerard's sex ban lasted another five days. Five days during which Gerard told everyone that he and Frank were seeing each other (which was a fucking stupid phrase, okay, they saw each other every fucking day) and held Frank's hand whenever he could and kissed him in front of everyone and kept putting his hands under Frank's shirt, and on hotel nights Frank shared his bed and got to do a lot of making out and a lot of nothing else, and worst of all, Gerard suddenly developed an unprecedented need to shower all the fucking time and Frank got to spend a lot of time with him naked and soapy and wet and it was torture.

"I guess it would be weird for you to wash Gerard's hair now," Ray said thoughtfully to Bob on the fifth day. "I mean, it's definitely under Frank's job description."

Bob nodded and killed some of Ray's soldiers. "Guess I'm fired."

"Huh," said Ray. He looked up at Frank and asked, "He let you get some yet?"

"I'm not talking to you about our sex life," Frank said moodily, picking at a bagel.

"You can't talk about what you don't have, it's true," Ray agreed. Then he said to Bob, "So how are you going to fill the hole Gerard's hair has left in your life?"

"I'm beating you," Bob said, killing some more soldiers.

Ray killed some of his right back. "It's not healthy to deny your desires, Bob."

"You only have half a life left."

"Embrace your inner self!" Ray said dramatically. "Let your dreams run free!"

"You sound like Gerard."

"No, Gerard sounds like this," Ray took a deep breath and pitched his voice even higher than usual, which Frank didn't even think was possible. He fluttered his eyelashes and dropped his controller and clasped his hands under his chin and squeaked, "Oh, Bob, you're so masculine and inspirational! Your magic hands are undoing me like a tangled cable!"

"Shut up," Bob said, but he was starting to laugh.

"Save me from split ends, Bob! Beat my head like you beat those drums!"

"I will end you, Toro," Bob threatened, but he was laughing too hard to even notice a sniper coming up to shoot him in the back of the head. "Oh, motherfucker!"

Frank stomped out to the bunks and sat on the one opposite Gerard's. "From now on nobody touches your head but me."

"Hang on, Mom," Gerard said. He held the phone away from his ear and said, "That's going to be a problem in make-up."

Frank mimed 'finish your phonecall, for fuck's sake' and rolled into Bob's bunk to wait while Gerard said a lot of stuff that boiled down to, "No, Mom, you can't move any of the boxes out of the basement."

He hung up after a while and smiled over at Frank. "Mom says hi, and that she never pegged you for the jealous type."

"Well, I am," Frank said. He reached over and touched Gerard's arm. "Not like in an asshole don't-talk-to-anyone-else way, but like, I pretty much draw the line at Bob washing your hair. Or any part of you. Or seeing you naked."

"I wore underwear," Gerard scoffed. Then he said, "Hey, check it out," and rolled out of the bunk and stood up by himself. Then he waved his arms and wiggled around dorkily. "I can dance and everything!"

Frank sat up and swung his legs out and grabbed Gerard by the hips. "Finally."

"What are you doing?" Gerard said, stumbling towards Frank.

"Blowing you," Frank said determinedly. He started undoing Gerard's belt, slapping his hands away when he tried to stop him. "No, come on, not even priests are this patient."

"We can't do it here," Gerard giggled, trying to twist away. "Frank! Stop it! Someone'll see!"

"Yeah, what do you care, you giant exhibitionist," Frank said, fighting to undo Gerard's fly.

Mikey chose that moment to walk in and say, "Oh, Jesus, I knew this would happen," and walk straight back out. Then he changed his mind and came back and pointed at Frank. "Are you pressuring him? Because I will kick your ass."

"I'd like to see you try," Frank told him, but he accepted defeat and let go of Gerard.

Mikey said, "That's right," in a satisfied voice, and walked out again.

Frank rested his forehead on Gerard's hip and sighed. "Your brother's an asshole."

"Yeah," Gerard said fondly, stroking the back of Frank's neck. He lowered his voice and said, "Hotel night tonight."

"Oh really, I hadn't thought about it," Frank lied. He stood up and put his arms around Gerard. "That's cool, though, I'm totally looking forward to just crashing out after the show."

"Yeah, me too," Gerard said, putting his hands in Frank's back pockets. "I'm totally not planning to let you ravish the fuck out of me."

"We can hear you being gross!" Mikey called. "Cut that shit out."

"It's like having our parents on tour," Frank groaned. He thunked his head off Gerard's shoulder, then kissed his neck because it was right there.

"Mmm," Gerard shivered and squeezed Frank's ass. "It's going to creep you out if I say it's totally doing it for me, isn't it?"

Frank spent the rest of the day in a state of complete terror that something bad was going to happen to Gerard that would render him incapable of sex. Gerard made a sandwich: Frank worried that the bus would swerve and Gerard would impale himself on the knife. Gerard read a book: Frank was convinced he'd die in a freak papercut accident. Gerard almost tripped on a cable during soundcheck: Frank had to go and find a wall to punch so he wouldn't just kill every member of their crew in a furious rage.

Gerard kept pushing Frank up against things and kissing him and rubbing against his leg and moaning about how he couldn't wait for the show to be over already: Frank considered killing him himself. But he didn't, because that was a pattern of behavior he was pretty committed to breaking.

By the time they were actually done for the day and in a hotel room and the door was locked and Frank had checked everywhere for safety hazards, he was so frazzled he didn't even get it at first when Gerard said he felt like washing his hair.

"You cannot be serious," Frank said, climbing off the bed and going into the bathroom. "Do I need to point out all the ways in which getting clean is a huge waste of time?"

"I'm going to need that in writing," Gerard said, leaning over the tub. He turned the faucet on and pressed the little plunger to make the stopper go down. "Come on, it'll be hot."

"Gerard," Frank began, but then he stopped because Gerard was stripping his clothes off and dumping them on the bathroom floor; pants, shirt, everything, until he was completely naked.

Frank had seen Gerard naked a lot over the last few days, but this was different because he wasn't right there helping him with something. Gerard crossed his arms nervously over his chest at first, then shook his head irritably and put his hands on his hips and jutted one of them out, lifting his chin and clearly calling up a little stage presence from somewhere.

Frank didn't want that, though, so he went over and kissed Gerard's mouth and chin and throat and slid his hands over everything he could reach until Gerard was just Gerard again, albeit a Gerard who was breathing faster than normal and rubbing himself against Frank's clothes.

"Wait, wait," he said, even though he had both hands wedged inside Frank's pants, palms pressed over his hipbones. "Come on, let me get in."

Frank stood back and stripped down to his underwear while Gerard shut off the water and climbed into the tub. "Just tell me this is going to end in orgasms."

Gerard laughed and then submerged himself totally, spluttering and wiping his face when he came back up. "I certainly hope so," he said, and then leaned back and gave Frank an impatient look. "It's not going to wash itself."

Frank grinned and grabbed the tiny hotel shampoo bottle, then kneeled down by the tub. "I was thinking you might wanna throw a nod to cleaning from the neck down first, but I see now I was mistaken."

"Do you know me at all?" Gerard said, and then sighed when Frank started working the shampoo into his hair. "Mmm. That's so fucking nice. I can't believe I had a thing for this all these years and never knew about it."

"Tell me about it," Frank said quietly. He kissed a patch of skin on Gerard's neck that didn't have suds on it yet.

Gerard said, "Right?" and they were both quiet for a minute while Frank rubbed his fingers behind Gerard's ears.

Then Frank said, "I think you've just gotten used to me waiting on your diva ass hand and fucking foot."

"Maybe," Gerard said, smiling at Frank over his shoulder. "Maybe I just prefer you to Bob."

"I should fucking think so." Frank pushed on Gerard's shoulders. "Rinse."

"In terms of like, intimate touching and things, I mean," Gerard felt the need to clarify when he emerged from the water again. "He kicks your ass on the drums. And at sound mixing. But you're totally the best at hair-washing."

Frank put his arms around Gerard and rested his chin on his wet shoulder. "Good. And please don't ever call it intimate touching again."

Gerard hummed happily and brought his hands up to cover Frank's. "I don't know, it's like - we've known each other so long, and I really love this part, you know, when it's still all new and you haven't done everything yet."

"And the high-school obsession just keeps on coming." From this angle Frank could see everything - Gerard's white knees sticking out of the water and his legs veering off at a weird angle under the surface. He could see his dick, too, and while it looked bigger underwater than it really was, there was no mistaking the fact that it was totally hard. "Gerard, man-"

"I didn't want to miss that," Gerard said insistently, tugging Frank's arm. "With you."

"Shit," Frank said, and he pressed his forehead into the back of Gerard's neck and breathed for a minute while his heart did a weird squeezy thing in his chest. His ears were ringing.

"I wanted it to be you," Gerard said a little breathily, "Before, but I didn't know how to ask," and okay, that was just the motherfucking end of Frank's patience, right there.

He pulled the plunger and stood up to strip his shorts off.

"What are you doing?" Gerard yelped as Frank splashed down into the tub with him. "No, come on, let me get out first."

"No," Frank said, and put his tongue in Gerard's mouth to stop any arguments. He hooked one of Gerard's knees over the side of the tub and wedged himself in between his legs and it was so good, to be pressed up against Gerard all the way down like that, the water level falling rapidly around them, warm skin shrinking against the relative cold.

"Frank," Gerard gasped, and Frank licked all the way down his throat and onto his chest and sucked each of his nipples in turn, willing the fucking water to drain faster while Gerard twisted and panted underneath him.

Frank had one hand braced on the side of the tub and he wormed the other one down between them to where he could feel Gerard's cock tight and hot against his own. Gerard squirmed and moaned when Frank got his hand around it, finally, and Frank licked further down and lapped at his bellybutton and bit gently all around it, and Gerard cried out and tried to thrust up and water went right in Frank's face and he could not have cared less.

"Come on, come on," Frank growled at the water still rippling under his chin, and his own cock was throbbing like crazy so he had to lean back up and grind against Gerard a little more, just a little, just enough to tide him over.

The air in the tub was warm and damp when the water finally receded enough for Frank to fold himself up into a pretzel and take Gerard's cock into his mouth. It tasted like hot water and vaguely like shampoo and a lot like Gerard, and it wasn't that much smaller than it looked underwater, and the burn in Frank's jaw was almost enough to make him come right then and there.

"Oh, Jesus," Gerard said, squirming around, his ass squeaking along the bottom of the tub. "Fuck, Frank."

"Mmmhmm," Frank hummed around his mouthful of dick, and Gerard panted and tangled his wet fingers in Frank's dry hair, which felt weird but awesome. Frank wrapped his hand around the base of Gerard's cock, and wedged his elbow against the side of the tub so he could put the fingers of his other hand against Gerard's ass; not pushing in, really, just teasing.

Gerard was taking these giant lungfuls of air, and it sounded kind of stupid, and his heel kept jabbing Frank's spine painfully, and none of it mattered. What mattered was Gerard's cock throbbing in his mouth and the slick, salty flavor spreading over his tongue, and his wet thighs shaking around Frank's ears and the fact that it was Frank's name he couldn't stop saying, faster and faster and louder and louder until he came, shoving his dick as far as he could into Frank's mouth and moaning loudly on every pulse.

Frank swallowed and swallowed and pulled off, panting. He licked Gerard's cock carefully and kissed the tip, then surged back up onto his knees.

"Oh, God," Gerard was slurring, rolling his head around on the rim of the tub. "Fuck me, Frank."

"You can bask later, fuckface," Frank said tightly, and he grabbed Gerard's hand and folded his fingers around Frank's cock. "Oh, fuck," he panted, thrusting forwards. "Fuck, yeah, yeah, that's it."

"Yeah, Frankie," Gerard breathed, licking around Frank's mouth and kissing the corner of his eye. Frank gripped both sides of the tub and held on while Gerard worked his cock, tight and fast, perfect, and Gerard pushed his other hand between Frank's legs and Frank could feel everything, his weird bendy knuckles pressing against Frank's balls, and his blunt nails scraping the skin behind them.

Gerard was still talking, total sex babble, just: "Come on, Frankie, that's it, I know you want it, I can feel it, you're so close, come for me, come all over me, baby, it's just me and you."

Frank made a stupid whining noise that he didn't care about and his knees hurt on the bottom of the tub and he begged, "Don't stop, don't you fucking stop," and Gerard moved his hand faster and promised he wouldn't, and Frank screwed his eyes up and everything from his toes to his shoulders went tight and desperate and he couldn't even breathe and then he was coming, finally, all over Gerard's chest and belly and hand. It was like being hit over the head with a baseball bat made entirely from awesome.

He fell forward and caught himself on Gerard's shoulders at the last minute, fighting the urge to collapse on him, dead weight. Knowing Frank's luck he'd end up breaking his collarbone or something.

Gerard kept his hand tight around Frank's dick until Frank stopped moaning and started wincing, then let go and looked at it. "You're gonna make me wash again, aren't you."

Frank laughed and shook his head. "I don't think I can stand long enough to shower."

He grabbed a hand towel and wet it and cleaned Gerard up gently, then helped him out of the tub and they dried off and brushed their teeth at the sink together like total losers.

"That thing is so loud," Gerard said through a mouthful of toothpaste. He spat and rinsed. "It sounds like a vibrator."

"We are not using my SoniCare for sex," Frank said firmly, setting it back in its holder. "We can buy a vibrator if you want, though."

They got into bed and Gerard lay on his side, then on his front, then on his other side, the bad side, but decided against that pretty quickly and flipped over again to snuggle up to Frank. "This is awesome. I can't believe how much I missed lying on my side. I'm going to write a whole album about it."

"Mm," Frank said non-committally, because he still felt guilty and he wasn't sure how he felt about his brief flirtation with sadism being explored through the medium of song.

Gerard touched his thigh and kissed under his ear. "Don't worry," he said. "I'll leave you out of it."

"Hey," Frank said, "You made me wait forever for sex, okay, nobody is gonna take your side."

Gerard tutted loudly. "You shouldn't underestimate our fans. A lot of them are very mature."

Frank rolled his eyes and curled up facing Gerard. He rubbed his hands down Gerard's back and kissed his shoulder. "How do you feel now?"

"I don't know," Gerard said, scrunching his mouth up. "I think I might have a pain."

Frank smiled against his skin. "Oh yeah? Where?"

"I don't know," Gerard said again, stretching out on his back. "Why don't you look for it and I'll let you know when you find it."

"If you want me, you can just say so," Frank said, following. "You don't have to come up with a lame excuse."

"Who's making shit up?" Gerard sighed and put his hands behind his head. "Sometimes you just want to be kissed better."
 
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