by Synchronik

I think I'm sick, but I might be well.
I think I'm broke, but it's hard to tell.

The Bravery

Frankie was sick. It had started out as just a sniffly nose, then it became a cough and then his head started hurting and his muscles started aching and then there was a fever and then he sort of almost fainted, staggering the gravel when he was on the way from the bus to the signing, the heat just shoving him to the ground, and that was when Gerard made them call the tour doctor.

"He's sick," the doctor said to Gerard, as if Frank wasn't even sitting on the couch, shivering faintly in the air conditioning.

"What is it?"

The doctor shrugged. Frank folded his arms over his chest partly to keep himself warm and partly to keep himself from punching the guy in the face. "Just a cold, really. Get him some rest and some fluids and he'll be fine in like a week."

"Like a week?" Gerard said. "Can he still play?"

"Sure," the doctor said. "If he feels up to it."

"I'm fine," Frank said.

"Call me if he feels worse or starts vomiting," the doctor said.

"I'm not going to vomit," Frank said.

"Thanks," Gerard said.

"I'm not going to vomit," Frank said again, after the doctor left. Gerard sat on the coffee table across from him and put his hands on Frank's bare knees, rubbing gently.

"Okay," he said.

Frank pulled his knees up away from Gerard's hands and wrapped his arms around them. "I'm fine," he said.

"Sure," Gerard said. "You seem fine." He shifted onto the couch and sat next to Frank, sliding his arm around Frank's back, rubbing his shoulder.

Frank squirmed away. "I am," he said.

"I know," Gerard said, yanking him back. His cheek banged against Gerard's shoulder. Dull pain seeped into his skin, warm and achy. Frank closed his eyes against the tears that welled up. It was just because he was sick and Gerard had banged his nose. He didn't feel good, that was all. "Quit being an ass," Gerard said, and pulled him down until he was against Gerard's shoulder, Gerard's arm looped around him, Gerard's mouth on his forehead in a strange protective kiss. Frank thought about jerking away again and going to lie down on his bed, but Gerard squeezed him gently, like he cared or something, and it was too nice, the heat of Gerard's skin through his t-shirt, the gentle rush of his breathing, the slow movement of his hand on Frank's arm. So he didn't. He stayed there until Bob and Mikey came in, all heat and sweat and cups sloshing over with ice water.

"Hey, how you doing?" Mikey said, crouching down in front of him. He pressed his hand, still cold and damp from the ice water, against Frank's forehead.

"He's sick," Gerard said. "It's the flu or something."

"Yeah," Mikey said. "Feel better, man." He slapped Frank's knee. Frank nodded and closed his eyes again, but it was time to get up and there was no avoiding it, so he pushed himself up, away from Gerard. He was immediately cold.

"I'm going to take an aspirin," he said.

Bob patted his back. "You have some?" he asked. Frank nodded.

"Yeah," he said. He paused, a little light-headed, one hand on the wall.

"Frank?" Gerard said.

"I'll be fine," he answered. "Fine."

The first time Frank should have stopped things was the second time they kissed onstage. The first time had been an accident, Gerard leaning down to say something at the very same moment that Frank had lifted his head, but it had been fun, daring, and had fit into the band's rapidly developing self-image as gay-friendly and ambiguous and open and it wasn't like neither of them hadn't kissed guys before although, at least in Frank's case, he'd been pretty drunk the two other times.

The second time, at a show two days later, Gerard had hooked his arm around Frank's neck and lifted his chin gently and kissed him with an open mouth completely intentionally and in front of everyone and Frank had felt his knees give a little and his body fall back against Gerard's and his eyes close.

He'd kept playing though. That was something.

"I thought it could be a thing," Gerard said to him afterward, swigging from a bottle of beer. "If you don't mind."

"No, it's cool. I mean, people are going to talk and stuff, you know."

Gerard shrugged. "Yeah, but so what? You and I know the truth, so who cares about everyone else?"

"Yeah, that's true," Frank said, and from that point on, Gerard would come up and kiss him onstage whenever he felt like it, wrapping his arm around Frank from behind or leaning over him or once, memorably, falling to his knees in front of Frank during one of Ray's guitar solos and shoving the guitar out of the way and pushing up his shirt and kissing Frank's stomach right over one of Frank's tattoos. Frank's erection had been immediate and painful.

That had been the first time he could have stopped it, he thought, curling up on his side in his bunk, his pillow clutched to his sweaty cheek. If he'd said then "man, I'm just not cool with it," none of this would even have happened.

When Gerard came back past his bunk a minute later, he pretended to be asleep. Gerard sat down anyway, hunching over to fit under the ceiling of the bunk. "Frank," he whispered, shaking him gently. "Frankie."

Frank blinked, pretending to wake up. "hmm?" he said.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Gerard asked. "For tonight?"

Frank blinked again. He wanted to tell Gerard to fuck off if that was all he cared about, the show, but Gerard's face so close to his in the cramped quarters of the bunk it seemed like he was actually concerned.

"I dunno," Frank said.

Gerard nodded. "I'll tell Chris we're off the bill," he said.

"No, wait." Frank closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Was he good to play? Would he be able to stand up there in the heat in front of thousands of people and play and not pass out? He felt Gerard's fingers in his hair, piecing it out and pulling each discrete section back off his forehead gently, an absent-minded gesture of affection Gerard made when he was thinking about something. It was oddly relaxing, Gerard's hands picking at him. Frank sighed.

"I'm calling Chris," Gerard said finally.

"No," Frank said, almost sitting up, but Gerard flattened one hand on his chest and pushed him back down.

"There's no way," he said. "We're supposed to be on in less than two hours. You ain't making it, kid." His hand moved a little, massaging Frank's chest through his t-shirt. "I know you want to, but dude? You look like death."

"Isn't that, like, our whole aesthetic?" Frank asked.

Gerard laughed. "Nice word," he said. "And nice try, but no, man. We're canceling."

"The kids'll be pissed," Frank said. He could feel the pressure lifting off of him now that the decision to cancel had been made. He wouldn't have to stand up. He wouldn't have to get dressed or put on make up or hold up the weight of his guitar. He wouldn't have to sit in the stifling tent and sign autographs, which he usually enjoyed but at the moment sounded like the most horrific kind of torture, the still air, the endless sea of faces pressing eagerly toward him reeking of beer and sweat and desperation.

"We'll tell them you're sick," Gerard said, rubbing Frank's chest gently. "They'll understand."

Frank chuckled. "No, they won't."

Gerard smiled. "No, but we'll make it up to them. We'll do an extra-long signing. It'll be fine." He leaned over and touched his forehead to Frank's. "Get some sleep, okay?" he said.

"I was sleeping before you woke me up," Frank said.

Gerard's laughter was warm over his cheek and his hand tangled in Frank's hair. "You're an ass," he said. He kissed Frank's cheek firmly. "Feel better," he said.

Frank, who'd closed his eyes to avoid having to look into Gerard's, nodded blindly. "Okay," he said.

"Okay." Frank could hear the smile in Gerard's voice. "Love you, man."

"Love you, too," Frank said. Then he held his breath while Gerard kissed his cheek again and pulled himself out of the bunk. He held it until he heard Gerard say "we're canceling," his voice firm and confident in the other room. Then he fell asleep for real.

The second time Frank could have stopped the whole thing was the first time Gerard kissed him off the stage. The onstage kissing had become familiar and typical by that point, just another thing that they did to smack fans in the face and get them to wake up a little. Frank's heart still raced when he felt the tell-tale grip of Gerard's hand on his shoulder, sliding forward, a harbinger of the kiss to come, but it didn't mean anything. It was for show. He understood that. There was nothing wrong with liking it if he knew it didn't mean anything.

Then Gerard had come up to him at a party, drunk off his ass, and said "there's my boy" and put both hands on Frank's face and kissed him so fiercely that Frank dropped his beer in surprise. Gerard kissed him, with tongue, until Frank gave in and looped his fingers into Gerard's belt loops and kissed him back, his head tilted upward because Gee was just a little taller than him, just tall enough to be nice. He tasted of bourbon and beer.

"You're so sweet, Frank," Gerard said after the kiss, his hands still on Frank's face, their mouths almost touching. His smile was delirious. "You're the sweetest thing."

"Shut up," Frank said. He could feel his face heating up under Gerard's palms.

Gerard grinned and kissed him again, briefly, and wandered off and Frank grabbed his empty beer cup off the floor and went back to the keg where Mikey was standing, slouched against the wall.

"Hey, man," Mikey said.

"Dude, your brother just kissed me and told me I was sweet," Frank said, unable to keep it to himself. Not that there was any reason to, since Gerard had just done it in a room full of people, so it wasn't like it was a big fucking secret or anything, but for some reason he wanted to say it to someone.

Mikey blinked behind the smudged surface of his glasses. Frank knew that part of the reason why Mikey wouldn't give up the glasses for contact lenses like the record company execs begged him to was because he was shy and didn't want people looking at his naked face. But part of it, Frank thought, was also because he could stare at you over them like you were crazy. "He's drunk," Mikey said.

"Well, obviously," Frank said.

Mikey took a sip of his beer. "Uh huh," he said.

"What?" Frank asked. Mikey's smile was subtle and enigmatic. "What!" Frank demanded.

"You like him," Mikey said.

"Shut the fuck up," Frank said, turning to the keg. "You're a fucking idiot." He poured himself a beer, scowling at the foam, and when he turned around Mikey was still smiling at him knowingly.

"You should tell him," Mikey said. "He'd probably fuck you. You know, if you wanted."

"Jesus, Mikey," Frank sputtered. He didn't want Gerard to fuck him, for Christ's sake, just because Gerard had kissed him in the living room.

"What?" Mikey said. "He would. He fucks guys sometimes."

"How do you even fucking know this?" Frank asked.

"So you want to? I'll ask him for you if you want."

Frank slammed his hand against Mikey's shoulder. "Dude. Do not ask Gerard anything, okay?"

Mikey rolled his eyes. "Okay, man. Fine."

"Say you won't."

"I won't."

"Say it like you actually mean it."

Mikey leaned forward, staring into Frank's eyes. "I won't say anything. Okay?"

Frank leaned back. "Okay."

"But you should tell him. Because he probably would."

Frank groaned and walked away. He hadn't told Gerard anything, not that night and not any night after that when Gerard got drunk and kissed him, always the same way, his hands cupping Frank's ears, their faces close together. It wasn't like the onstage kisses, which were purely for show, because these kisses meant something -- they meant that Gerard loved him as a friend and that Gerard was a very affectionate drunk. They just didn't mean anything else, and that was okay. Frank was totally cool with that. He loved Gerard, too. As a friend.

Frank woke up to a silent bus. He could hear the roar of the crowd, dulled to a faint rumble by the soundproofing, and the gentle whir of the air conditioning, but there were no other sounds. The rest of them were gone.

He pulled himself out of the bunk and staggered to the bathroom and peed. Then he splashed water on his face and went out into the lounge area. He felt okay, lighter and sharper, like maybe the nap had cured him. There was a note on top of all the crap on the table.

"Autograph table until 5:00," it said in Ray's round handwriting. "Get better."

Frank looked at the clock. It was 4:15. He grabbed a clean t-shirt out of the stack of communal laundry and yanked it over his head and pulled on his shoes.

The heat hit him like a slap in the face when he stepped off the bus, but that was totally normal. The air conditioning on the bus was always way too high, because Ray liked it freezing cold and whined when it got too hot. It was sort of nice to feel the sun baking into his bones, warming flesh he hadn't even realized was chilled.

He strolled across the parking lot along the far fence line to avoid the kids hanging around the edges. He loved the fans, he did, but he was still a little tired and didn't want to feel guilty about not stopping to sign autographs. It would be okay at the booth, where he could sit down and be in the shade, but he didn't want to stand on the pavement in the hot sun.

It wasn't until he got to the gate that he realized that he'd forgotten his all access pass on the bus. "Shit," he said, when he got up to the kid sitting in the folding chair by the gate. "I forgot --"

"It's cool, man," the kid said. "I'm a fan."

"Thanks," Frank said. He stopped for a minute on the other side of the gate, just to catch his breath.

"You okay, man?" the kid asked.

"Yeah. It's just fucking hot," Frank said. The kid nodded.

The autograph tent wasn't far from the gate -- it was meant to be easily accessed without sending the crowds into a frenzy -- but it looked farther than Frank remembered and there was, like, no shade along the way. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, wishing he had brought one of the seventy-five fucking water bottles from the bus. He needed a drink of water. His mouth felt impossibly dry.

He was at the back of the tent, when one of the security guards, a real one, not some kid in a yellow polo, stopped him. "Can I help you?" the guy asked.

"I'm in the band," Frank said. He could feel sweat gathering on his forehead. He just needed to sit down for a minute.

"The band's already in there," the guy said. "They've been in there for two hours."

"No, I was sick. I'm in the band," Frank said, trying to step past the security guard and into the shade.

"Sir, I'm sorry --" the guard said, and that was when someone caught sight of him.

"Frankie!" she screamed. "Frankie Iero!" And then the whole line that was still outside the tent turned and saw him and took up the chorus, screaming his name like a flock of wild birds. It hurt his ears, and the sun hurt his eyes and all he wanted was the fucking shade. He pushed past the guard, who had been distracted by the clamoring of a million teenage girls and stepped inside the tent.

It was hotter than he had remembered, dark and stifling, and he could barely make out his bandmates in the darkness.

"Frankie," someone said, Gerard said, and then everything went black.

The next time he should have stopped it was the first time they kissed in private. No stage, no party, no witnesses, just Gerard turning to him while they were watching Teen Titans in some hotel room and kissing him softly, then resting his head against Frank's shoulder. Frank, stunned into silence by Gerard's mouth on his, didn't say anything about it, not then, not ever.

He woke up because of the bumping. Someone was bumping his head over and over again and it hurt and he wanted it to fucking stop. "Stop," he said, and opened his eyes.

It was the security guard, the one who wouldn't let him into the tent, his face looming large and close above Frank's. He was being carried, he realized, his legs hooked over the guy's arm, his head banging against the guy's shoulder in time to the steps he took. "Gerard?" he said, trying to lift his head. "Ray?"

"We're here," Ray said, hopping into view alongside the guard, sort of half-running to keep up. "Don't worry, honey. You're fine."

"Okay," Frank said, and closed his eyes again.

He opened them when he felt the cool rush of air conditioning on his skin. The guard, who was panting heavily, like a big dog, set him down on the couch. "Sorry, man," he said to Frank. "I didn't know."

"It's cool, man," Bob told him, ushering him toward the door. "You were just doing your job."

They all stood over Frank, watching him, until the door whooshed closed.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" Gerard asked.

Frank blinked. "I woke up. There was time."

"It's like, fucking, one-hundred-and-five degrees out there!" Gerard shouted. "You could have died."

"He couldn't have died," Bob said. "I mean, unless he hit his head or --"

"He could too!" Gerard shouted at him. "You could too!"

He was scared, Frank realized. Gerard was scared and that's why he was yelling. "I'm okay," he said, reaching for Gerard's hand. "I just thought, you know. I could surprise you."

"Yeah, man," Ray said. "Next time surprise us by not fainting in the autograph tent."

"Seriously," Bob said. Gerard sat down next to him on the couch, still holding his hand, stroking his fingers across Frank's knuckles. He didn't say anything.

"There is a bright side," Mikey said. "Now they'll actually believe we cancelled because he was sick." Bob and Ray laughed and Gerard smiled and Frank smiled, too, because it was nice lying here in the cool air with Gerard holding his hand. He still felt weak, but lying down helped.

"We should get back out there," Bob said. "People are going to be freaking out."

"Yeah," Mikey said.

"I'm staying," Gerard said. "I'll stay and watch him."

"We could tie him to the bed," Ray suggested.

"That's kinky," Frank muttered, which made everyone laugh again and then they were gone -- Bob, Ray, Mikey -- back out to explain the situation to everyone and try to nip the rumors in the bud, and it was just him and Gerard, still holding his hand.

Frank actually did try to stop the whole thing the next time Gerard kissed him in private, without an audience of any sort. They'd been in a motel room playing cards while the other guys were out at a mall seeing some stupid summer action movie. Normally, Frank was all about the stupid summer action movie, but Gerard had been moody all day and had announced, when Matt asked if he wanted to go, "no, Frank and I are going to chill here for a while," so Frank was chilling in the hotel room and not at the movies. Gerard had let him order popcorn from room service, though, even though it got the cards all greasy, so that was cool.

"So," Frank said, after they'd given up on cards and settled for pay per view instead, the M. Night Shaymalan where Bruce Willis was a superhero although they'd both seen it before. "What's wrong?"

Gerard sighed. "I dunno," he said. "It's just. Sometimes it's hard."

Frankie nodded. He'd been the frontman before, in Pencey, but they were starting to move beyond his realm of experience, the crowds were getting bigger and more intense and, really? He'd never been the kind of frontman Gerard had been from the beginning. He didn't kid himself that he'd ever been that good. "Like what?" he said.

"I dunno," Gerard repeated.

Frank pulled his knees up and leaned back against the head board. "Seriously, Gee. What?"

Gerard curled up, his head on Frank's shoulder. "It's just. They're all counting on me. You're all counting on me. And, it's just. I've never been all that reliable, you know. Like, I don't even count on me. So. It's. There's a lot of pressure."

"Yeah." Frank sighed. He didn't really know what else to say because they were sort of counting on Gerard and they were sort of worried. Matt had even wanted to call a meeting without Gerard last week to talk about what they were going to do if Gerard totally freaked out and they had to replace him, but Mikey had told him to fuck off and that had been the end of the meeting.

"Frank," Gerard said, and something in his voice made Frankie turn his head and there it was, Gerard's hand on the side of his face and they were kissing again, like they had a hundred times, only Gerard wasn't drunk and they weren't at a party and they weren't onstage, and Gerard's mouth was soft and hesitant against his.

"Gerard," Frank gasped, pulling away. Gerard leaned in again, but Frank set his hand against Gerard's collarbone and shook his head. "Gerard, stop," he said.

"Frank," he said. "Please. Just. This doesn't have to mean anything. I just need to be close to someone, just for a minute."

"Gerard, this isn't a good idea," Frank said. His fingers had slipped over the collar of Gerard's old t-shirt and were brushing against the silken skin of his neck.

"It's not an idea," Gerard said. His mouth was almost brushing Frank's, his breath hot on Frank's lips. "It's nothing. Nothing."

"It's not," Frank said, but then they were kissing again and Gerard's mouth was moving and his tongue licked the corner of Frank's mouth and Frank sighed and gave up and twisted his hand in Gerard's shirt.

The made out for an indeterminate amount of time, sliding down until they were lying face to face on the thin motel pillow, curled on their sides, knees touching. They just kissed, really, Gerard's hand sliding up Frankie's arm and into his sleeve, then back down again, mouths coming together and breaking apart for breath, until Gerard pulled back, gasping, and said, "we should stop, Frankie. Before. You know."

Frank didn't know, exactly, but he did know that Gerard's face looked open and sad somehow and if he wanted to stop, they should stop. "Sure," he said. "Okay." He pulled away a little, but Gerard surged forward, wrapping his arm around Frank's waist, pressing his cheek to Frank's chest.

"Sorry," Gerard murmured.

Frank didn't answer. Instead he wrapped an arm around Gerard's shoulders and hooked one leg over both of his and squeezed, a sort of full body hug. They stayed like that for a long time, Frank watching the movie over Gerard's head, his hand stroking Gerard's back.

"You know what's sad about this movie," Gerard said eventually.


"Bruce Willis can't stop anything bad from happening. He can only see the evil that's already happened. He's always too late."

Frank thought about it for a minute. "Jesus, that is sad," he said.

"I know," Gerard said. He tipped his head back and looked at Frank. "We're pathetic dorks, you know?" he said.

"No shit," Frank said. And he knew it was wrong, he could feel it in the pit of his stomach, but he wanted to kiss Gerard again, so he did, softly. "One for the road," he said, before Gerard could protest.

"I hate you," Gerard said and snuggled back in to him.

"Don't you ever fucking do that again, Iero," Gerard said.

"Sorry," Frank said. "I really felt better."

"Uh huh. You almost gave me a heart attack."

"Sorry," Frank said again. "You can go with them, though. I promise I'll stay here and not pass out again."

"Nah, that's all right." Gerard released his hand and shifted until he was sitting near Frank's head. "Lift up," he said. Frank lifted his head and when he put it back down, Gerard's thigh was underneath it, his black jeans still warm from the sun. Gerard stroked his forehead, his hair, his cheek. "Seriously, Frank," he said. "A heart attack."

"I said I was sorry, man," Frank said. He wanted to close his eyes and press his nose against Gerard's stomach and breathe in his scent, but that seemed like giving in somehow, like betraying some part of himself, so he just closed his eyes instead. He had sort of a headache.

"I heard you, motherfucker," Gerard said, but he didn't mean it, not in the same way Frank would have meant it.

"I wish I weren't sick," Frank said. He didn't say "I wish I could get up and walk away without fainting" or "I wish I could be onstage and play and play and not have to think" or "I wish I were over you," but those were all the same thing sort of, so he just stuck with the first one.

"Mmmm." Gerard stroked his hair. "You'll be okay."

"Eventually," Frank said. "Eventually, I'll be dead and then everything will be fine."

"Yep," Gerard said cheerfully.

Frank rolled onto his side, resting his cheek against Gerard's knee and wishing that he had the strength to get up and walk away, but he never had, not when Gerard was involved, and now he had a fever, too.

After that, there was no stopping it. Kissing Gerard, touching him, was like a drug, and Frank never wanted to stop. To get to see Gerard like that, open and happy, his head thrown back, his mouth open. To get to feel his body move. To get to be that close to him, closer than anyone else, even Mikey. Frank couldn't give it up.

"This is love," he thought to himself one afternoon, while Gerard was asleep on the other side of the bed, in just his underwear, his back naked and pale. They'd been making out more often, longer and longer each time, stopping this time, just as Frank had slid his hand toward the elastic on Gerard's underwear, Gerard shying away, gasping "don't, don't," even thought he clearly wanted to. They'd clung to each other, hard and sweaty, for a good ten minutes before Gerard had rolled over and drifted to sleep. Frank fought the urge to touch him, smiling to himself. "This is love," he said out loud, so soft that even he couldn't hear it, but that was okay. It had been said, out loud. He'd said it. It was true.

It was true for him, at least. It didn't seem to be as true for Gerard, who sometimes shut the motel door in Frank's face when Frank came by after shows to see if he wanted to hang out. And who sometimes slept with other people, not groupies, but guys from other bands, like Bert and Andy and, once, Jamie and Rog together. He came down to breakfast that time with hickeys on his chest the size of silver dollars, his shirt open to display them like fucking war medals or something.

"You should say something," Mikey said, once, while they were watching Gerard chat up a production assistant. Blond. Gerard had a thing for blonds.

"Like what?" Frank said. There was nothing to say. The one time he'd said to Gerard "hey, um, about the other guys," Gerard had laughed and said "just let me know if you're horny, man. I'll hook you up," and that had been the end of it. So he wasn't fucking saying anything, no matter what Mikey's advice was.

Mikey shrugged. "Like you're totally in love with him."

"Shut up," Frank said.

Mikey did.

"How are you feeling?" Gerard asked after a while, stroking Frank's hair back out of his face.

Frank shrugged. "Okay, I guess," he said. He did feel okay. Worn out and achy and a little sad that this was what his relationship with Gerard had come to -- him having to be sick to be close to him, touch him -- but basically fine. He'd live to fight another day.

"We haven't done this for a while," Gerard said.

"Done what?" Frank asked. They'd never done this as far as he could remember. Despite his formerly crappy health, he didn't get sick very often.

"This." Gerard stroked his arm. "You know. Hung out."

Frank snorted. "We hang out all the damn time, Gerard. Every day."

Gerard slid his hand under Frank's arm and over his waist, his hand warm and comforting and somehow nerve-wracking as well. "Sort of," he said. "You've been busy or something."

Frank coughed. Busy. That was rich. He'd been pretty busy with his right hand lately, but that was about it. At least, though, Gerard had noticed that he'd been avoiding him. That was some cold comfort. "Yeah," he said. "I just figured that you were, you know. Pretty busy yourself. So I was staying out of your way."

Gerard's hand paused on Frank's ribcage. "You know," he said carefully. "Frank. I'm not. I'm never too busy for you. If you, like, need something."

Frank sighed. "Yeah, like if I'm sick. I get it, Gerard," he said. "It's cool."

"No," Gerard grabbed his shoulder and rolled him onto his back, one hand resting flat on his chest. "I mean, like, I'm never too busy. I just thought maybe I shouldn't be hanging around so much, you know. If you were busy. With other things."

Frank blinked. Gerard looked upset, like Frank had said something mean to him. Like he gave a shit if Frank were pissed at him, his eyes large and worried, his mouth crumpled. "What the fuck, Gerard," he said.

"I just --"

Frank sat up, groping for the back of the couch to steady himself against his sudden lightheadedness. "No, really," he said, blinking back dizziness. "Are you saying that you fucking like me? Now?"

"Um, I guess. But, um. I've always liked you."

"Since when?" Frank demanded, pointed his finger into Gerard's chest. "Since when have you always liked me?"

Gerard shrugged. "Since, like, forever. Since I first met you. You knew that, though."

"You said it was for the show," Frank said. "The kissing was for the show."

"Well, you didn't seem all that. I dunno. You didn't seem to want to. And I felt like an ass about it, a little, like I was forcing you, so I don't know. I thought. I guess I thought I'd stop since you weren't, you know. Since you didn't like me. In the same way."

Frank closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Okay," he said. He opened his eyes. "I like you," he said. "I've liked you for a while. I thought you didn't like me. But you do. You still do, right?"

Gerard nodded.

"Okay," Frank said. "Great. Good. You like me."

"You want to make out or something?" Gerard said. "To be convinced?"

"I'm sick," Frank pointed out, even though he did really want to make out with Gerard, "and we're doing five shows next week."

"All right," Gerard said. He shifted and pulled Frank into the crook of his arm, nuzzling into his hair. Frank relaxed and closed his eyes, Gerard's arm a warm band across his chest. He was almost asleep when Gerard spoke again, his voice muffled by Frank's hair. "Hey," he said softly. "I can't catch a cold from a blowjob."

The End

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