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AN: Thank you to Luciamad for the beta.

"Are you lost?" Spencer asked.

"No," the New Guy said, and continued to look in both directions while standing in the middle of the hall.

"Um, okay," Spencer said, "because you seem a little lost."

"No," New Guy muttered, "just--"

"Temporarily misplaced?" Spencer guessed. It got New Guy to crack a smile. Spencer said, "Hi, I'm Spencer," and shifted his messenger bag so that it was easier to hold out a hand.

New Guy took it. "Bob."

Bob, Spencer decided, was the best thing to happen to this school since Fast Food Tuesdays. It was a big claim, Spencer realized, but he was good at making snap decisions like that, and being right. "Where are you trying to be, Bob?"

"My locker."

"What's the number?"


Spencer's heart sank a little. Not that he'd had a chance in the first place, but, "You're a senior?"

"Thank fuck for that."

"Yeah," Spencer attempted a laugh and a recovery. "Yeah, um, it's just, you don't really meet that many seniors who transfer mid-year, you know?"

"Mm," Bob said. "You're what? A junior?"

The lie was very, very tempting, but Booker High wasn't that big a school; it would get back to him. "Freshman," he admitted.

"Huh. But you can find my locker, right?"

Spencer laughed. "Yeah, we're allowed in the senior hallways. C'mon." Spencer took him the long way because it took them back through the main entrance, so Bob would actually know where to go when he came to school the next day. Also, that allowed Spencer some extra time to... Well, some extra time. Sooner or later, though, it was inevitable that Spencer would have to tap the aluminum door of Bob's locker and say, "1742, there you go."

"Thanks," Bob said.

Spencer shrugged. "No problem." He watched Bob work the lock, managing to get it open on his first try. It was possible that that was Bob's superpower, since Spencer had never seen anyone do that, not even Mikey's older brother Gerard, who had a freaky aptitude with just about anything that couldn't talk back. He wasn't so great with the things that could.

Bob hung his jacket on the peg and stored a couple of his books. "You wouldn't know where classroom 430 was, would you?"

"Yeah, it's not that far."

"What's the likelihood that I could make it to my Italian class without looking like a complete asswipe who can't be bothered to show up anywhere near on time?"

"You're pretty much fucked, but uh, is that Italian I?"

"Yeah, I kinda suck at it, but it fulfills the requirement."

"I was just asking 'cause Frank's in that class. He'll tell you what you need to know."

"In that case, know where room 184 is?"

"Yeah," Spencer said.

"You don't have a class to get to, right?"

"Ryan'll let me borrow his notes."

"Nice of him."

Maybe, but Ryan kind of owed Spencer that much, given the number of times Spencer had provided Ryan somewhere to go when home just wasn't working out and the amount of secrets he'd kept for him over the years. Not that Spencer would have ever put it that way, or even thought to, but Ryan thought of it that way, and Spencer was fourteen, he wasn't going to eschew the benefits completely. Spencer was just lucky this was the one class they actually shared. Ryan sucked at science. "I'm friends with nice guys." Spencer didn't think about his next words before he said them, "You could meet them at lunch, if you wanted. Frank and I are freshman, but Ryan and Mikey are sophomores and Gerard's a senior."

"Lunch," was all Bob said.

"We sit in the far right corner, if you decide you want to join."

Bob nodded slowly. "Thanks."

Spencer wrapped his hands around the strap on his bag and squeezed. "Yeah, sure. C'mon, I should show you 184 before you miss your second class, too."

"And that would be so bad?"


Seniors were allowed to leave campus during lunch and free periods, so Gerard spent more lunches than not in the comic shop. He couldn't really afford to buy much, but Ray, the guy who ran the place, liked Gerard and never gave him a hard time about it. Gerard would have liked to bring Mikey, but if Mikey got caught sneaking off campus one more time with Gerard it was going to be a suspension and Gerard's mom would kill them, both of them, the only difference being that she'd make Gerard's death a slow one.

He was about to leave when Frank caught up to him, and said, "Whoa, hey, going somewhere?"

"Same place I go every day, Pinky," Gerard muttered. This was not good. If Frank kept talking to him, Gerard would stay and eat the crap this school passed off as food. Most of the people at this school annoyed the hell out of Gerard, but Frank Iero was at the top of that list, mostly for being the kind of asshole who had only been his little brother Mikey's friend for forever and then suddenly, and without warning, had gotten hot. Shit like that was unacceptable, and it was not in Gerard's nature to be forgiving, or so he liked to believe.

"Take me with you? Pleasepleaseplease--"

"Freshman aren't allowed--"

"We won't get caught, I promise we won't, and I'll totally buy you a comic, whatever you want."

Gerard crossed his arms over his chest. On the one hand, if they got caught, he was not only going to be in trouble with the school and his mom, but Frank's mom as well. And also, this was Gerard's escape time, his hour to get away from this place and the people in it. On the other hand, Frank wasn't people, Frank was Frank. And Gerard really, really wanted the new issue of Daredevil. "Fine, but if I'm grounded, I'm telling Mikey about the time--"

"You're never going to stop blackmailing me with that, are you?"

"Well, not until I have something better to blackmail you with."

"I'm not stupid enough to get caught by you twice," Frank said.

"Uh huh." In truth, Mikey probably wouldn't give a crap that Frank had totally been the one to break Mikey's entire box of crayons in yet another ill-planned Iero stunt when he was five and Mikey was six. Mikey had cried copiously at the time--they didn't get new things all that often--and Gerard had taken the fall, because Frank had looked completely miserable and Gerard had sensed that the last thing Mikey needed to know was that his best friend was the culprit. Frank probably knew that anything Gerard had on him was long outdated, but Frank kept letting him get away with the blackmail, which was another reason that it was dangerous for Gerard to be around Frank all that much. Not that Frank would ever be mean to Gerard, or anything, but Gerard had seen the way girls looked at Frank, who was their size, and often prettier than them, and he really didn't need to get his heart broken. It was hard enough being the Fat Ass or the Comic Geek or Pansy or really, any of the things that Gerard had seemingly always been, without falling for someone as unfairly good-looking and sweet as Frank Iero.

"Hey," Frank said, and smacked Gerard's arm. Gerard ignored the way it made his entire fucking side tingle. His life sucked.

When they got to Gerard's car--a beat up, mustard-yellow, late 70's Dodge--Frank got in without complaining that he had to crawl in through Gerard's side, because the passenger door no longer opened, and didn't say a word about the cold. The heat hadn't worked since Gerard had bought the thing. He just asked, "So, what am I getting you?"

Gerard shrugged. Frank laughed. "You're such a liar, I know you already know."

"I have to make sure." And that much was true. It was unlikely, but something might have come in that Gerard just couldn't have predicted. Ray would tell him.

"Okay, but if there aren't any surprises, what am I getting you?"

Gerard sighed. "Daredevil."

"Awesome, Electra's the shit."

"Yeah," Gerard said, and carefully drove, rather than banging his head against the steering wheel, no matter how tempting.


"Hey," Spencer said, and smiled. It was possible (or, you know, probable) that when he'd invited Bob to lunch, he'd expected the invitation to be totally disregarded. "Gerard and Frank have fucked off to parts unknown, but this is Ryan, and that's Mikey."

Mikey poked at his food. "And by parts unknown he means the comic store. Without me. Assholes."

Ryan said, "We can go on our own after school. It's walkable, Gerard just thinks he's special because he has a car. Or a close approximation to one." Ryan had a somewhat epic crush on Mikey. It was often painful for Spencer to watch, since Mikey had that brand of obliviousness that was special to, well, Mikey.

Mikey frowned. "More of one than you have."

Ryan rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, much like you, I'm fifteen. It wouldn't do me much good, would it?"

"Whatever," Mikey said.

"So you're not in?" Ryan asked, sounding pretty doubtful that Mikey's pissiness was going to end in him holding out.

Mikey didn't say anything. Ryan looked at Spencer. Spencer wasn't really into comics, but then, neither was Ryan, so if he needed some support for his trip Spencer would be there. Bob said, "Comic store? I'll go with you."

All three pairs of eyes at the table were immediately refocused. Mikey asked, "You're into comics?"

Bob shrugged. "Mostly the classics. Not any of the really cool, trendy new shit."

"Classics are good," Mikey said, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Hi, wait, do I know your name? Did Spencer--"

"I'm Bob," Bob said, which was nice of him, because yeah, Spencer totally had forgotten to introduce him in turn. Smooth, very smooth, Smith.

"Hi, I'm Mikey." Then again, hanging out with Mikey Way made it easy for one to actually feel smooth. Spencer watched Ryan try not to grin. Ryan was shit at acting.

Bob just said, "Hi, Mikey. I like Superman."

"Awesome. Gee's always getting on my ass about that, because it's like, he's invincible and Gee says that's stupid, but it's totally not. Nobody's invincible anymore, it's unique now, and it's not cliche because Superman made the cliche." Mikey nodded, having clearly convinced himself with his own argument.

"He's not really invincible," Bob said.

"Kryptonite," Mikey said, and grinned.

Bob laughed. "Lois Lane doesn't hurt much, either."

Spencer frowned at his tray. A senior and straight. Spencer really should have fallen in love with Ryan when his hormones started suggesting sex as a good idea and been done with it. Mikey shrugged. "She's okay. I like Superwoman better."

"So, we're going to the comic store after school?" Bob asked.

"I don't know, are we?" Ryan raised an eyebrow at Mikey.

Mikey had clearly forgotten they'd even been fighting about something. "Awesome."

Spencer sighed. Evidently, he had an after school field trip planned.


Mikey came into the bedroom, dropped his bag on the floor, kicked his shoes off, dove stomach first on the bed and opened a comic. Gerard looked over and asked, "Hey, what'd you get?"

Mikey didn't say anything. Gerard asked, "Mikey?"

"Not talking to you."

"Oh, come on, I'm sorry. I just didn't want you to get in any more trouble."

"But Frank getting into trouble was okay?"

Gerard grimaced. "He attached himself to me with super glue, Mikey. You know what he's like. I couldn't say no. He would never have supplied the Goo Gone and left."

"Yeah, like that would have bothered you so much."

Gerard looked over, but Mikey was snickering rather than still pouting. Gerard threw a pillow at him. "If you say anything--"

"As long as my crush on Ryan remains top secret, so does yours. But if I so much as suspect--"

"Ryan Ross scares me. It's in my best interests that you remain hopelessly pining for him."

"Yeah, well, that's gonna happen whether he knows I am or not, so I prefer to spare myself the humiliation."

Gerard didn't say anything. Sometimes Mikey was kind of stupid, but then, that was a human failing, and Gerard found it sweeter in Mikey than most other people. Instead he just asked again, "What'd you get?"

"It's that new kid, Bob's. He bought a few Supermans, but he said I could borrow this one to read."

"New kid?"

"See what you miss when you abandon your little brother at lunch time?"


Mikey laughed. "Spencer brought the new guy to lunch today. We have similar taste in comics."

"So, bad taste?"

Mikey flipped him off without looking up. "I think Spence has a crush on him. He's pretty cute, but I think he might be straight. Also, a senior, and only loser seniors have crushes on freshman."

"I hate you," Gerard muttered.

Mikey looked unconcerned. "What'd Frank get you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"From the comic store. That is how he got you to take him, right? He promised you a comic?"

Gerard frowned. He wasn't that predictable. "Maybe I'm just more willing to take risks for him."

"Uh huh. Come on, I told you what mine was."

"I wasn't being mean."

"I'm sorry, I'm sure you took him due to the pure love in your heart that in no way means you want to suck his brains out straight through his cock. All right? Now what'd he get you?"

Gerard was not mollified. "I'm getting a new brother."

"But until that time, I'm the one you've got, so spill." Mikey moved over, creating a space for Gerard on his twin bed. Mikey never seemed to think Gerard was too fat to share space with him.

Gerard gave in and walked over, lying on his stomach next to Mikey. He put his comic down next to Mikey's. Mikey said, "Daredevil? Bet Frank slobbered over Electra."

Gerard bit his lip. Mikey knocked Gerard's should with his own. Gerard knocked back.


Bob rode a bike. This should not have been hot. Seniors who had cars were hot, only, Gerard had a car, and Spencer loved Gerard and all--he was Mikey's older brother--but the car didn't help Gerard out. At all. And Bob looked pretty fucking good leaning over the handlebars. Spencer's life was a tragic island of tragedy, and fuck, he was starting to sound like Ryan. Spencer needed some new friends. At least he wasn't Frank Iero, and in love with Gerard. Spencer comforted himself with that fact--regularly.

Right now he didn't need as much comforting as he generally would have, because Bob was asking, "There any good record places around here?" and okay, that was something Spencer could tell him about. He would have to thank Ryan later for dragging him around to every damn LP shop in town until he'd sort of fallen into loving it as much as Ryan. Maybe his friends weren't so bad.

"Quite a few, actually. What are you doing Saturday?" Oh smooth, very smooth. Jesus Christ on a cracker.

"Unpacking. Come rescue me?" Bob said it calmly, without any dramatics. It was a bizarre break from the norm of Mikey, Frank and Gerard, or from Ryan's ability to ask a question without any sort of question mark at the end.

"Um. I don't have a car. Or a bike, actually."

"How do you get to school?"

"Walk mostly. Bus if it's too cold." Spencer mumbled the words as quickly as possible.

"It gets too cold here?" Bob looked doubtful.

"Well, uh, sometimes my mom--"

In what may or may not have been a rare moment of mercy, Bob rescued him, "Yeah, moms. Okay, well, I think it's possible that you could walk to my place. I mean, I'm shit at geometry but I figure if we drew a straight line from two places that are fairly close to the school to each other it probably wouldn't be that much longer, right?"

"Probably not," Spencer agreed. He was really much better at history--he had a good memory for random ass facts.

"If you could get to me, my mom usually lets me drop her off at work on Saturdays so that I can have the car."

"Yeah, okay. Where do you live, I'll Google the directions."

Bob rooted around in his messenger bag for a bit before coming up with a pen. Spencer said, "I have paper."

Bob said, "Yeah," and grabbed Spencer's arm. He wrote, "825 Nueva Vista, #3." "See you on Saturday."

"Um, right," Spencer said, and had a brief, very brief moment of wondering how he was going to explain to his mom that he was never washing his arm again. Then he remembered that he wasn't a girl. Jesus.


Frank pulled his sleeve over his hand and sneezed into it for about the fortieth time since he'd come over. Gerard had tried not to ask, because he knew it annoyed the hell out of Frank, but he really couldn't help a concerned, "You feeling okay?"

"Just a cold," Frank muttered, grabbing at the tissue box he'd just about finished off. That was fine, Gerard's mom really only bought them to keep Frank supplied in any case. If there was one thing they'd all learned in the ten years Mikey had been best friends with Frank--ever since the day the Ways had moved in next door to him--it was that a cold was never "just a cold" with Frank.

Gerard looked over at where Mikey was kind of being an asshole, talking on the phone with Ryan while Frank was over. The thing was, Frank was sort of like Gerard in the sense that Mikey could do that around him and it wasn't even really something to remark upon. They'd all known each other too long for the niceties to be observed. Frank rolled his eyes in Mikey's direction. "Think your brother's ever going to grow a pair?"

Gerard frowned, because making fun of Mikey was something that he, and only he was allowed to do. Not even Frank got that privilege, despite the fact that it really didn't sting as much as it should have--as much as it usually did. He was about to say something when Frank started sneezing again, sneezing so many times in a row that when he finished his face was nothing but red, he was bent over and near to falling off the couch. Mikey was looking over, starting to say, "Uh, Ry--" but Gerard waved him off. Mikey's mouth stayed open for a second but he said, "Nevermind, what were you saying?" He fixed Gerard with a clear "take care of him" look.

Gerard said, "Hey, you want me to walk you home?"

"It's fifteen feet when I can't walk in a straight line, Gerard."

"There could be, um, lizards."

"There could be," Frank agreed slowly, each breath wheezing past his lips, "but I don't have your bizarre fear of them, so it's all good."

It was widely agreed that it was a little special that Gerard--who had moved to Nevada at the tender age of seven--had managed to maintain his fear of geckos, and anything else vaguely lizard-like, but he had. "I'm just saying--"

"I'm just gonna lay here, for a bit. It's fine, I just haven't been getting enough sleep."

"Maybe you should get in a bed." Gerard had to look away after he'd said it. Sometimes--usually--he didn't really think things through before he said them. "I mean, Mikey wouldn't--"

"Don't want me and my germs in your bed?"

Gerard's immune system was pretty hardy. Unlike the lizards, he wasn't afraid of Frank's cooties. Or anything about Frank, really, except for the part where he had the power to totally break Gerard's heart. "You want to lay in my bed?"

"Mikey always has too many blankets."

Mikey got cold easily, despite the relative mildness of Nevada. Gerard sometimes still missed the New Jersey winters. He was totally going back there for college, assuming Princeton let him in. It would, it totally would, it had to. "You can have my bed. I'm, y'know, not going to bed any time soon." It was three in the afternoon.

"Not even for a nap?"

Gerard shook his head. "All yours, promise."

"You're absolutely certain?"

There was something odd about the tone of Frank's question, not like he was making sure he wouldn't be in the way--which wasn't very Frank-like to begin with--but like-- "Oh." Like he was suggesting something. "Um."

"I mean, I know I'm pretty gross right now, and fourteen as a regular state of being, but--"

"No, no, I like naps. I like...naps."

Frank smiled and even with his eyes kind of puffy and his nose and lips a little raw, it was the most gorgeous thing ever. Frank Iero was the poster child for why life was unfair. Gerard smiled back, even let all his teeth show, despite the fact that orthodontia had been well out of the range of things his mom could afford and he didn't really like people seeing the inside of his mouth. Frank had never made fun of his tiny, crooked teeth.

"I really do have to sleep," Frank said balefully. Gerard nodded. He would keep watch.


When they were done with the record stores, Spencer said, "I know a good noodle place, if you're into that. Cheap, too."

Bob shook his head. "Sorry, my allowance is sitting in the backseat, and I haven't had a chance to pick up a job here."

"My treat," Spencer said, feeling a little guilty that his parents wouldn't even ask about the charge to the family card. "You can hit me back when you get that job."

Bob hesitated a second, then asked, "Your noodle place has meat, right?"

Spencer grinned. Victory. "There's one soup with four different kinds."

"Tell me where to go."

Spencer navigated them to the extravagantly and creatively named Noodle House. It was a total pit on the outside, and Bob, who didn't seem like the kind of guy who got picky over these things, eyed it somewhat suspiciously, but Spencer said, "It hasn't fallen down yet," and went inside, where it was actually clean and fairly well-lit. Bob said, "Huh." Spencer snickered.

They ordered at the counter--Bob forgoing the four-meat special for something that gave him a little shrimp with his meat. Spencer said, "I'm going to have to think less of you now."

"I bleed from my soul," Bob informed him in almost as good a deadpan as Ryan. Once they had their bowls they grabbed one of the tables in the back area and set to devouring. When he had a moment where his mouth wasn't full, Spencer asked, "So where are you from?" and immediately felt stupid. They weren't forty year olds, he could come up with better small talk than that.

"Chicago." Bob wasn't giving off any signs that he was aware Spencer had the conversational skills of a PTA Parent.

Spencer sensed, from Bob's reaction that first day, that he didn't really want to talk about their reasons for moving, so he asked, "What's it like there?"

"Colder. There's a lake."

Spencer wasn't fooled. He could hear the hidden thread of wistfulness in Bob's tone. "You have a lot of friends there? Girlfriend?" Seriously? You're gonna ask like that, seriously?

Bob shook his head. "Not really, no."

Spencer wasn't sure if that was in response to the first or the second question, but it didn't really matter, since Bob hadn't answered yes, which he probably would have if there was a girl in the picture. He also hadn't acted at all uncomfortable, like maybe a girl was out of the question. Spencer hated straight people. "Then you just...miss the lake?"

"It's a big lake."

"So I've heard." Spencer had actually seen Lake Eerie several summers in a row when he'd gone to camp out east. He knew what a Great Lake looked like. Spencer had liked being out on the lake, so he could see how someone might miss that. Still, if he moved from here, it would be leaving Ryan that would be the absolute death knell for him, and Spencer liked a lot of things about this place. "You gonna go to college there?"

Bob shrugged. "School's not really my thing."

Spencer had met a few people who validly felt that it was, but it wasn't a widespread sentiment. Still, "What is your thing?"

"Dunno just yet. Not school."

Spencer was sort of envious. It would have been nice to be so unstressed about a decision like that.

"You know what you want to do?" Bob asked.

Spencer shook his head. He had a few years.

"I'm looking for ideas, so if you think of anything--"

Spencer laughed. Bob smiled back at him. "Thanks for dinner."

"Sure thing."


Frank's cold turned out to be "just" pneumonia, which Frank took pretty much in stride. This was unsurprising, since Frank had gotten bronchitis or strep or some kind of serious sinus infection every year that Gerard could ever remember. Spencer got all of Frank's English, math and history assignments for him, Bob handled the Italian end, and Mikey was in charge of his chemistry homework. Gerard and Mikey would run it to him after school every day.

Then the pneumonia developed into an Empyema, which Gerard looked up on the web, but stopped after the words "pus filled". It was in Frank's lungs, and it involved pus. That was really more than enough information for Gerard. Frank had to be moved into the hospital, where they gave him IV antibiotics and pain meds for the chest pain, which was evidently somewhat severe, since Frank actually mentioned it, and Frank had the highest pain tolerance of anyone Gerard had ever met. (Even Bob, who had cut himself in shop the week before and not noticed until Spencer pointed out that he was bleeding. Gerard was mildly convinced that Bob was an android. He hadn't discussed the theory with anyone yet.)

The pain meds made Frank a little loopy when he was awake, which wasn't all that often. Gerard drove himself and Mikey out to the hospital every day, but most of the time they just got a sleeping Frank. Mrs. Iero wasn't usually there at that time--she had to be at work--and sometimes Mikey would leave the room to go to the bathroom or get a Coke and Gerard could brush the hair out of Frank's face. Mikey was a super brilliant brother.

There was one day where they came and he was awake. Mikey grinned so hard Gerard was worried his cheeks might explode. "Hi!"

Frank laughed a little. It was a tired laugh, it sounded like it was coming from far away, but Gerard thought that was probably just the drugs. "Mikeyway. Mom says I keep missing you guys."

Mikey nodded. "We didn't want to tell you this, but you've been diagnosed with narcolepsy."

"Add it to the list," Frank said. Mikey smacked his shoulder, gently. Frank said, "Be nice, I'm sick. Gerard'll be nice to me. Gerard loves me even when I'm sick and pus-filled."

It was the sad truth of Gerard's life. "Could you maybe not say it like that?"

Frank chuckled. "S'okay, I totally love you back."

"How much of those meds do they have you on?" Gerard asked. Somebody should maybe be checking the levels.

"Mmmmm," Frank hummed happily. Yeah, that was what Gerard had been afraid of. The world was cruel and unrelenting.

Mikey said, "We've still been getting your homework. You're gonna have some major catch-up, but we're all gonna help, so it'll be fine."

"Best friends, Mikeyway, best friends in the world."

"We try," Mikey said softly. Gerard watched the way his hands twitched at his side, wanting to touch. Frank when he was healthy was indestructable. He would appear from behind corners, walls, whatever, bowl a person over with the strength of his hugs and affection. He looked even tinier than he was lying in the bed, and his skin had begun to take on a translucent hue which reminded Gerard of one too many B scifi flicks.

"'M tired," Frank slurred.

"You should sleep," Mikey told him. "Right, Gee?"

"Definitely. Sleep is good for the pus-filled."

Frank wrinkled his nose at that, but the endeavor to make a face was ruined by the presence of the gigantic yawn that took over and which was really too adorable to classify as anything but adorable, no matter what Frank's opinion on the subject was. He said, "Sorry," and promptly fell unconscious once more. After a few minutes, Mikey asked, "You uh, you wanna go?"

Gerard shook his head. "We could do homework here for a bit."

"Yeah," Mikey said.

"Mikey, what he-- Don't give him shit about that stuff, later, y'know?"

Mikey stared at Gerard for a minute before saying, "You're a fucking moron," and unearthing his European history textbook.


Spencer was walking toward home when Bob pulled up next to him on his bike. Spencer said, "You're going the wrong direction."

Bob got off his bike and started walking it next to Spencer. "Come back to my house with me, my mom said she'd drop me off at the hospital before going to work. I figure Gerard'll take us home if we ask nicely."

Spencer nodded. "Sounds good. I've really only been able to make it on weekends. And he's been asleep both times."

"Yeah, me too. The sleeping part."

Bob had only known all of them for a few months at this point, so Spencer thought it was pretty awesome that he'd visited more than once, or at all, really, but Frank was the kind of guy people did that for, and Bob was evidently the kind of guy who did things like that. Spencer tried not to think about it, he was problematically in love enough as it was. He walked back to Bob's house with him, perving a little over the upcoming Rise Against album.

Bob's mom dropped them off at the hospital, but not before making sure they'd had something to eat. Mrs. Bryar was big on making sure that Bob ate something decent when she was around to watch him. Spencer had noticed that Bob actually tried not to be a total child about it when she wasn't around. Bob really loved his mom.

As expected, Mikey and Gerard were there. For once, Frank was actually awake. He was drowsy, and most of what he said only made partial sense, but it was better than asleep Frank, which was what they had after the first ten minutes. Gerard sat tentatively on the edge of the bed, his fingers touching lightly at where Frank's knee seemed to be under the blanket. Bob asked, "Are they saying anything about how he's doing?"

Gerard was just watching Frank sleep, so Mikey said, "He's getting better, it's just a little hard to tell at first."

Spencer rubbed at one of Mikey's shoulders. "Ryan says he misses your study sessions."

Mikey looked away. "Me too, I just--"

"He understands. Ryan, of all people, understands."

Mikey nodded. "Yeah."

"He's going to come out this weekend with me."

Mikey smiled a little. "That'll be nice."

"He would come more often, but--"

"No, I get it, I do. I do."

"Hey Spence," Bob said from behind Spencer, "you wanna share the chair with me?"

There were only two chairs in the room, and Mikey really did look like he needed to sit down. And as tempting as the offer was, Spencer thought it was a pretty bad idea. "I can stand."

Bob rolled his eyes. "Suit yourself."

"Spence, there's another chair," Mikey said.

"That's for you, you're the one who's all but living here."

"No, it's really--"

Spencer sat in the chair with Bob. Which meant that, in truth, he was all but sitting on Bob. Bob anchored Spencer with hands on Spencer's hips. Spencer, clearly, had been an enormously evil person in a previous life and was now being punished. Bob, seemingly unaware of Spencer's eternal torment, said, "Gee, have you bothered to look at the assignment for AP English?"

Gerard said, "Um, assignment?"

Bob sighed. "Yeah, didn't really think so."

There was a second and then Gerard smiled sheepishly. "Sorry."

Bob said, "You should be," but he was smiling, too.

Gerard asked, "What book are we reading?"

Bob laughed and reached down, past Spencer, to grab a book from his bag. Underneath his shirt, Bob's chest brushed against Spencer's back. Spencer looked over at Frank's sleeping form and thought, no good deed, huh?


Frank finally went home a little over a month after he ended in the hospital, which just so happened to be the Saturday that Gerard received an envelope from Princeton. Saturday. Wow, did Princeton know how to ruin a guy's weekend. On the upside, it meant that Gerard got the mail first, so he didn't have to deal with Mikey pestering him to open it, or his mom just going ahead and opening it for him. No, he could hide it and be terrified all by himself. Much better that way, much.

Or he could walk across his lawn and make sure Frank was settling back into his house just right. Mikey had gone over this morning before his bass lesson. Ryan took guitar from the same guy on the same day, so they tended to hang out after lessons. Gerard probably had at least a few hours before he got back. Gerard walked over and went in the back door, where Frank's mom kept the key under the bush. He called, "Just me," and she called back, "Hi, sweetie, he's in his room. He might be sleeping."

Gerard could handle that. Frank had a full-sized bed, and Gerard had slept over more than once in his lifetime. It wouldn't be weird for him to climb in next to Frank like they had that day in Gerard's much tinier bed and sleep, not weird at all.

Frank was asleep. Gerard was careful not to move the bed much as he settled on it. Once he was laying down, though, he couldn't sleep. Frank was breathing evenly on his own right in front of Gerard, his lips open slightly. In his back pocket, Gerard could feel the envelope crinkling inside his jeans. He couldn't turn his mind off enough to allow for sleep, so instead he just took the chance to watch, took the chance to believe that Frank was okay.

When Frank woke up he didn't startle, just slowly let his eyes flutter open and yawned, "Hi, Gee. Timezzit?"

Gerard glanced at the clock behind Frank's head. "Almost three."

"Mikey still with Ryan?"

"He was an hour ago. Probably."

"You been here an hour?"

Gerard didn't say anything.

"Shoulda woken me up."

"Your mom woulda killed me."

"It's sexy, the way you're a total pussy."

Gerard laughed and didn't think about how it would be nice if Frank did find him sexy. "You know it. How're you feeling?"

"Kinda like you kicked the crap out of me, how d'you think my mom's gonna feel about that?"

Gerard laughed. It must have been slightly off, because Frank said, "Hey, what's-- I'm okay, you know?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Gerard tried to nod with the side of his head still lying on the bed.

"You just--"

"There's a letter from Princeton in my back pocket."

Frank blinked. "What-- What does it say?"

"Can't seem to open it."

After a long moment, Frank reached over Gerard and fished the letter out of his pocket. He looked at Gerard, but Gerard just looked back. Frank said, "Okay," and tore the envelope open. He pulled the letter out and scanned it for a few seconds before breaking into a grin. "Holy shit, Gee!"

Before Gerard could even process what that kind of positive response meant, Frank was on top of him, Frank's lips to his and okay, Gerard had had a few dreams that may have gone like this, so he was a bit worried that he actually had fallen asleep across from Frank and maybe he didn't really get into Princeton and all this was-- Only Frank pulled back then and said, "Oh, um, oh-- I didn't--"

But no, no, that had been a kiss, and Gerard was maybe a pussy, but he wasn't a stupid pussy. "Did you mean it?"

Frank blinked. "That you got into Princeton?"

"No, what you said, what you said when you were on the drugs."

"I don't--"

"You said, um--"


"Thatyoulovedme." Gerard stared off, because it was one thing to hear Frank say no, but he didn't want to see him holding back laughter.

There were several seconds of silence before Frank said, "You are so stupid. How the hell did you get into Princeton?"


Then Frank was on him again, kissing him, pulling away between kisses just long enough to say, "Of. Course. It's. Fucking. True."

There was no way, no way Gerard wasn't going to wake up from this. He wrapped his arms around Frank, though, kissed back, and Frank stayed exactly where he was, tongue and all.


Gerard and Frank were careful about who saw them so much as smiling at each other, because Gerard--Spencer knew--had been shoved into enough lockers in his time without adding homosexuality to his crimes of outsiderness. So it wasn't obvious about them except for how it was, and Spencer was happy for them when he wasn't busy hating them and their gay gayness. Said gay gayness--and it's clear effect on Spencer's brain--was what he totally blamed The Bob Incident on.

Bob hadn't even done anything to provoke it, not if one didn't count breathing and standing in one spot, which Spencer sort of did. Bob was sort of a crime against man and nature. But really, they had just been talking. Bob had been talking about his job at the grocery store and his asshole manager, Spencer had been talking about Ryan spending the night the last three nights and his not-unconnected inability to stay awake in Life Sciences. It was better than talking about the way Ryan was worried about a father who didn't deserve it, better than talking about all the things Spencer wasn't allowed to say.

Bob said, "You're pretty good to him, man," but he didn't sound like he didn't understand. Bob never made Spencer feel crazy.

Spencer said, "He's Ryan," because that was what there was to say.

Bob said, "Yeah, okay," and laughed in that way he did where he wasn't laughing at Spencer, he was just aware that life needed to be laughed at a bit. Either that, or kicked. Bob evidently preferred laughter when he was around Spencer. Spencer preferred it, too. Bob asked, "Plans for tonight?"

Spencer shook his head. As long as he kept his cellphone on him so that Ryan could find him if he needed to, Spencer was wide open.

"Wanna come over? Mom's working, but she said I could order pizza and '24' is on tonight."

Spencer said, "Sure," which was how he ended up on Bob's couch next to him in the mostly-dark. They watched the entire episode in nearly complete silence, Bob riveted by the on-screen action, Spencer just drawn in enough to pay attention despite the way their legs were nearly touching, the way the muscles in Bob's arms would flex at a particularly tense moment. Maybe it was that level of distraction that caused him to be stupid, or maybe it was Frank and Gerard's suddenly happy ending, or maybe it was that he really was tired from three days and nights of Ryan needing him to be solid and steady. Maybe it was simply because Bob was smiling and hot with it and Spencer wanted, he wanted. Whatever the reason, in the dark of the credits, Spencer leaned in and pressed his lips to Bob's.

There was a second where Bob's lips were firm against his, salty from the pizza. Then Spencer was on the floor, his hip hurting where it had hit the sharp edge of the coffee table. He didn't want to look up, didn't want to be there, didn't want to do anything other than run, but that was as stupid as all the rest of his options, so he tried saying, "Sorry, I don't know--"

"Did you think I was a homo?" Bob asked, his voice different than Spencer had ever heard it. It took Spencer a second to recognize it as anger, which was funny, because Spencer was good at reading people. Anger and something else that Spencer knew intimately but couldn't credit to the moment. Fear.

"No, I--"

"Get out of my house."


"Get. The. Fuck. Out."

Without exactly knowing how, Spencer found his knees and pushed himself to his feet. He wrapped his arms over his torso, his hand landing protectively over where the bruise from the table was already forming. He went over to where he'd left his bag and tried his hardest not to let his hands shake as he pushed books back into it. It banged against his injured hip when he swung it over his head and he just barely managed to bite back a gasp of pain. He let himself out the front door, closed it behind him, and walked into the middle of the street. He looked in the direction of his own house for several minutes before getting his phone out and calling said house. His mom picked up. He said, "Hi, mom."

"Hey, Spence. You need a ride?"

"No, mom, I'm gonna go to Ryan's for the night, okay?"

His mom was silent for a bit. "You okay, sweetie?"

"Yeah, just. Ryan called. He said-- Ryan called."

"He sure he doesn't wanna come here again?"

"I asked."

"Yeah, 'course you did. Okay, honey. Come home from school tomorrow, though, yeah? Your dad and I would like to see you on occasion."

"Yeah, yeah," Spencer did his best to sound like a begrudging teenager. Normal was necessary.

"Give Ryan a hug for me."

"Mom," Spencer said.

She laughed and hung up. It was a longer walk to Ryan's and the chill of the nighttime desert had already settled but Spencer was too fucking numb to be bothered by it. He put one foot in the right direction, then the other.


It wasn't that Gerard had never sensed the pent-up anger in Ryan. Ryan had more anger than your average starved bear. It was that Ryan was always so careful with his anger, had been since the first day of high school, when he and Mikey had met in their history class. Mikey had introduced Gerard at lunch and Ryan had been theirs ever since, at least when he wasn't Spencer's. Gerard could honestly say he would never have expected to see Ryan Ross beat the crap out of someone easily twice his size, but that's exactly what Gerard saw about ten minutes into Tuesday morning.

The most shocking part was, the guy Ryan went to town on was Bob.

Until the fight, there had been nothing unusual about the morning, at least not so far as Gerard was concerned. They were hanging out in the parking lot before classes. Spencer was being a little quiet, but Gerard knew he'd been helping Ryan out with family problems, so it could have just been exhaustion. Frank had had sugary cereal for breakfast and was a bit manic even by Frank standards. They were talking about plans to get them all out to Jersey to see Gerard when Ryan broke off from the conversation, loped the several feet to where Bob was standing still, and threw the first punch before he was even properly in range.

And sure, Bob was twice Ryan's size, but that wasn't going to help him if he just stood there and took it, which--other than throwing up his arms to protect his head--was pretty much what he did. Mikey said, "Oh shit."

Spencer yelled, "Ryan, stop!" Both of them were running toward the one-sided fight before they even finished talking. Gerard and Frank ran after them. It took both Mikey and Spencer to pull Ryan off of Bob.

Gerard and Frank crowded around Bob, Frank asking, "You okay, man?"

"Fine," Bob said, looking past them at Spencer, who had all his attention on Ryan. Bob said, "Spence--"

"Not afraid to be seen with your homo friends?" Spencer asked without looking at Bob. "Or is it just because none of us are out? You should be careful, it's catching."

Gerard took a step back. He should have known that Ryan would have a reason for doing something like that. He didn't understand, not really, but he understood enough.

"C'mon," Mikey said softly, "let's get out of here before there are teachers to explain this shit to."

Mikey and Spencer herded Ryan away. Frank waited a minute and said, "Um, homo friends?"

Bob slumped. "You should go."

Probably. Gerard asked, "What'd you do?"

"Called him a homo, couldn't you tell?"

Frank put his hands on his hips and gave Bob the most unimpressed look ever. Gerard frowned. "Um, why? You knew about Frank and me and you didn't get all--"

"He kissed me," Bob said softly.

"Oh, um. Are you sure?" That didn't sound like the Spencer Gerard knew. The Spencer Gerard knew was at times overly cautious about these sorts of things, about people's right to their own bodies and decisions.

Bob looked at him. "Uh--"

"Yeah, that'd be a hard mistake to make," Gerard admitted. "You called him a homo?"

"I pushed him first," Bob said.

Frank said, "You pushed him? Yeah, okay, let's get the fuck outta here, Gee."

Frank started walking and looked back. Gerard wasn't ready to go. He said, "I'll be right there."

Frank shrugged and walked off. Gerard considered Bob for a second then asked, slowly, "Why'd you come out here this morning?"


"Why, Bob?"

"I don't know."

"Yeah, um, you let Ryan pound you pretty good before Mikey and Spence got to him, so I kinda think you're lying."

"I shouldn't have-- I'm, I'm straight, I am, I mean, not that there's, there's nothing wrong, and I--" Bob clenched his fists.

"Yeah, okay." Gerard said, "C'mon."

"Where're we going?"

"Bathroom, you're a fucking mess."

"Why are you--"

"Because I remember being straight like that."

Bob blinked. "Um. What?"

"Yeah, before my first boyfriend. I said some pretty heinous shit to him, too. Much worse than homo."

"But you--"

Gerard looked at him evenly. "I'm a comic geek, Bob, not a fairy."

"No, I didn't-- You should go before I say something to you, too."

"Bob," Gerard asked him again, "why did you come out here this morning?"

There was a long moment, long enough that Gerard was starting to think Bob wasn't going to answer. Finally he said, almost in a whisper, "Spencer."

Gerard said, "Yeah, that's what I thought," not without sympathy.

"I don't-- I don't understand."

Gerard was pretty sure he did, he just didn't want to. "Was the kiss disgusting? Was that why you pushed him? Or were you just so fucking scared you thought your heart would stop right there in your chest?"

Bob didn't say anything.

"Because if it was disgusting, I don't see why you're here, trying to apologize. Shouldn't you be out, trying to make some football player friends or something?" Gerard was actually fairly sure at least two of the guys on the football team were gay, but that was beside the point. Sort of.

Bob said, "He isn't disgusting. He isn't."

Gerard just looked at Bob. Bob said, "Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck."


"Okay, I know I'm not supposed to encourage you, because you totally can't be running around beating up homophobes since they usually don't stand still like that, but that was kinda the hottest thing I've ever seen in my entire life," Mikey told Ryan while Spencer was busy trying to assess that he hadn't broken anything in his hand. Ryan's eyes flicked with an expression of long denied hope.

Spencer said, "I think it's just sore. I'm going to class."

"Spence--" Ryan said.

"You guys should talk, or something," Spencer said. If he had to be here for the kissing he would totally cry and that was just uncool. But he wanted them to kiss, he really did. Nobody in the world deserved Mikey--and the equivalency of what he wanted--more than Ryan. Any other day, Spencer would have stood around and cheered them on. "Thanks for defending my, uh, honor."

"We'll catch up at lunch," Ryan said. It didn't sound like an option. He was totally next on Ryan Ross's hit list if he skipped lunch. Fantastic. Spencer went to class and failed to pay attention even just a little. He really hoped there hadn't been a test announced; his parents were not going to be sympathetic to bad grades by way of teenage angst.

He was on his way to his next class when Gerard and Bob ambushed him. Spencer just kept walking. Bob said, "Spencer, please--"

"I have to go to class. Some of us are actually at this school to study." He threw Gerard a particularly venomous look, because seriously, what the fuck?

"Yeah, I'm just here for the food," Bob said, and grabbed Spencer's arm. It hurt, but that wasn't why Spencer tried so hard to dislodge him.

"Spence, listen to him, okay? Please," Gerard said. Spencer looked at Gerard, who had wide, earnest eyes trained on him. Gerard could be stupid sometimes, but he was never voluntarily harmful. Spencer sagged a little in Bob's grip and nodded at Gerard. Gerard nodded back. "I'm gonna go. You guys... You figure your shit out."

Once the hall had cleared out, the second bell ringing, Spencer said quietly, "I'm sorry I kissed you, oh paragon of straight manly manhood, can I please go now?"

"I'm not."

"You're not what? Gay? I know, we just covered--"

"Not sorry," Bob said.

"Funny, because you--"

"I know what I did. It was stupid, I do stupid things, I don't always think and I should have-- Spencer, you're the only person I've wanted around me nonstop in almost eighteen years. All I would have had to do was think about it a little, freak out, tell my mom and then kiss you. We just did some of it in backward order and I get completely retarded when I don't go in order."

And despite not really wanting to, Spencer sort of understood. He remembered the terror that had struck at him the first time he realized that Ryan was really, really beautiful, the way he'd barely been able to speak to Ryan for nearly a month. The way Ryan had nearly broken apart under the treatment. Spencer remembered, and suddenly the fear he'd heard in Bob's voice slid into place, made sense. He sighed. "You're making it up to me."

"Yes, absolutely, I am absolutely making it up to you. How am I making it up to you?"

Spencer raised an eyebrow.

"Right. Why would you make it easy? Okay."

"If you-- I get if you can't do this right now, if it's too new, and you think it might not be real, or whatever. I get that. But if that's the case, you need to take your hand off me and keep it to yourself," Spencer told him.

Bob didn't move his hand.


"I'm stupid, not a coward."

Despite himself, Spencer was somewhat impressed. It had taken him months to think about having a relationship after he'd realized it wasn't even going to be with a girl. And he hadn't had any options. Bob said, "Just, um, one thing?"


"Get the Ryan to stand down, because I gotta tell you--"

Spencer laughed.


Gerard walked into his room to find Mikey and Ryan on the bed, making out for all they were worth. Gerard exclaimed, "My eyes! You've blinded me!" turned right back around and walked out. It took Mikey all of a minute to walk out and find him on the couch. Mikey's smile was unrepentant, and maybe the best thing Gerard had ever seen, barring Frank's. They probably tied.

Mikey said, "Um--"

Gerard laughed. "What the hell are you doing out here? You've got Ross in your clutches. Debauch! Debauch! Else I shall never more call you my brother."

Mikey said, "You're weird," and went off to do his brotherly duty. Since his room was taken, and he had better places to be anyway, Gerard made his way over to Frank's. He ran into Frank coming out the door.

"Oh," Frank said.

"Hi," Gerard said and grinned.

"So, um. My mom's still at work," Frank said softly.

"Yeah?" Gerard asked, like he didn't already know this, like their schedule of seeing each other hadn't been the same for pretty much forever.

"You should come in," Frank said, but stood where he was for a bit before letting Gerard past. Gerard grabbed Frank's hand on the way in, pulled him further into the house, up to his room.

They laid on the bed together, kissing, and there had been a lot of this since that first time, a lot of this and some rubbing off and the occasional handjob, all of which was pretty awesome. Gerard whispered, "Wanna do something new?"

"Gee," Frank said, a tinge of uncertainty in his tone. "Um, you probably-- Well, I mean, you're older than me and you've probably--"

Gerard kissed Frank. "I don't think I've got that much experience on you," he admitted. Until now, guys hadn't exactly been knocking each other out to get to Gerard. That was fine, because Frank was all about Gerard and Frank was really the only thing Gerard had ever truly wanted.

"Because you're really kinda the first-- I mean, not kissing, but um-- I might suck at the rest of it."

"Me too." Gerard asked, "Do you not wanna try?"

"No, no," Frank was pretty vehement on that point. "Want to try, totally want that. Just, um, if I'm bad--"

Gerard rolled his eyes. "Shut up," he said and kissed Frank some more. He tried to take his time, because he was pretty sure that was what thoughtful people did, but Frank was practically underneath him and Gerard couldn't keep his hands from the button on Frank's jeans, from pulling them down, over Frank's tiny, perfect hips. He inched down the bed and stopped for a second just to think mine, mine. Then he took a taste.

Frank said, "Oh hi, hi, hi," and it was pretty much the sexiest thing Gerard had ever heard.

"Hi," he said around the head of Frank's cock.

Frank groaned. He said, "You're a genius at sex, you fucking liar. Oh fuck."

Gerard giggled and worked his mouth further over Frank's cock. He couldn't get very far and that made him feel sort of lame, but from the noises Frank was making, he really, really could have given a shit less about Gerard's deep-throating abilities. Gerard wrapped a hand over the base of Frank's cock because he wanted to have all of it for himself. Frank made a noise that Gerard really couldn't have characterized as human, not even if pressed. Frank said, "Um, Gerard, um--"

Gerard pulled off because he didn't think he could swallow just yet, the idea seemed sort of daunting. One quick tug of his fist and Frank was coming all over Gerard's hand. Frank was breathing heavily and looking at Gerard like he had created the universe or something equally complex and inspiring. Gerard asked, "Can I kiss you some more?" because he really didn't know what the etiquette was when you'd just had your mouth on somebody's dick, even if the somebody you wanted to kiss was the owner of said dick.

Frank was all over him, kissing him messily and without regard to any sort of etiquette. It was fantastic. Frank said, "Want me to try? Want me--"

"Only if you want," Gerard said and Frank had Gerard's pants open and his mouth down at Gerard's crotch so quick Gerard had to wonder if maybe he'd found something to practice on or something. The touch of Frank's lips to the head of Gerard's cock almost brought him off right then and here, but hi, if his fourteen year old virgin boyfriend could hold on long enough for Gerard to get his mouth on Frank's cock--if not that much longer--Gerard totally could too. He'd done this before, okay? Once, anyway.

But fuck, Frank was trying this thing with his tongue, which was wily on a regular basis, but combined with Gerard's cock was just fucking evil. "Frank," Gerard whined.

"Mm?" Frank asked while still sucking, and oh, that was so, so unfair. Gerard panted. He could do this, he could do this and survive the process, no problem.

Frank slid down a little further, to where his throat just began to cradle the head of Gerard's cock and Gerard said, "Oh, gonna come, gonna--" Frank pulled off and was bringing his hand to Gerard's cock when Gerard's orgasm washed straight through him, without bothering to stop and consider what Gerard may have wanted.

Frank cuddled up to Gerard and it was a little wet and going to quickly become sticky but Frank said, "That was awesome," and Gerard totally agreed.


"I was wondering if, y'know, you'd consider going to prom with me?"

Spencer looked up from his copy of Of Mice and Men and said, "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention, what?"

Bob looked frustrated but just repeated, "I thought maybe we could go to prom together."

"Oh, so I didn't mishear, you're just insane."


"We're in high school, just in case you've forgotten. Gerard still regularly finds shit like 'faggot' written on his car and he's not even out."

"I don't care what other people think."

"Okay, except for the part where sometimes thinking leads to beatings and--"

"I can protect you," Bob said.

"Oh, fuck off," Spencer shot back.

"Spence. Spence, I'm kinda serious here. I want-- I don't care what those assholes think, but I care lots about what you think, about whether you respect me or not and I was sort of a complete coward, before--"

Spencer leaned forward and pressed his lips to Bob's. Bob's hands came to Spencer's hair and then they were making out, Spencer sliding his hands beneath Bob's shirt, Bob pulling Spencer further in so that their hips could align. Spencer pulled back after a couple of minutes. "Not so cowardly anymore. I don't need you to show off."

"But I might-- I maybe need to do that for you."

"So, let me get this straight: your big plan for redemption involves dragging me to prom? Because, wow--"

"It mostly involves the hotel room I'm getting for afterward."

Spencer's brain shorted out for a second. "Um, your mom--"

"Bought me condoms, after we had the big talk and she said she sort of suspected, because she's my mom and she pays attention and someday I'll have children and know and well, it just went downhill from there, but yeah, she didn't get all freaked out. She doesn't really."

"Okay, but I don't think my mom is--"

"Tell her you're spending the night at Ryan's afterward. Or Mikey's."

"Bob, I don't generally lie--"

"You really don't wanna spend the night in a hotel room with me? We don't even have to, um, we could totally just watch TV, or something."

Spencer rolled his eyes. "Please tell me you're kidding."

"I'm trying to be a nice guy here, and you're totally ruining it for me."

"I liked you better when you weren't trying."

"Yeah, but see where that got us? Spencer." Bob rocked his hips forward a little. He kissed at Spencer's lips, almost chaste, just on the brink of anything but. "Come to prom with me."

"Unfair," Spencer said through a kiss.

"Maybe," Bob admitted. "I wanna see you in a tux."

The thought of Bob in a tux robbed Spencer of his ability to breathe for a second. "Okay, point."

"Yeah, you'd be hot."

"I meant you."

"Whatever," Bob said. "So you'll come?"

"This is a bad idea."

"I have them all the time. You'll get used to it."

Spencer thought he might be already.


"I hate both of you," Ryan said in the same tone he said everything.

Mikey bumped Ryan's hip with his own. "We'll go out on our own that night. Some place nice."

"You'll probably have a better time," Frank said, trying to tug the rental tux he was attempting to pull into the right spots, or at least make it fear his wrath enough to behave. Frank hated dressing up. He wouldn't have been doing this at all except that Gerard had pontificated endlessly on their need to support Bob and Spencer and in his heart of hearts, Frank sort of agreed.

"Here," Ryan said, evidently taking pity on Frank. He soothed and tucked and did things with his hands that Frank couldn't follow and probably wouldn't have been able to understand even if he could have.

Mikey blinked and said, "Huh."

"Huh?" Frank asked. "Oh fuck, it's horrific, isn't it, it's--" Frank turned to look at himself in the mirror. "Um, I don't see anything wrong."

"No, it's just-- Evidently my brother isn't crazy." Mikey sounded somewhat disappointed to have to come to this conclusion.

"You're smoking hot, Frank. Nobody wanted to tell you, we're sorry to have to inform you at this point, but it's just the truth, and you're going to have to live with it." Spencer was making a bitchface at himself in the mirror.

Ryan rolled his eyes, pulled Spencer toward him, worked his magic, and then turned him back to the mirror. "There."

Spencer sighed. "Well, not Frank, but I suppose it will work."

Ryan hooked his chin over Spencer's shoulder. "We can't all be Frank. I think it more than works."

Frank looked at himself in the mirror again. "I think you're all on something."

"Three to one," Mikey said. "You're totally fucking outnumbered."

"Whatever, it doesn't count if I'm outnumbered by crackheads."

Mikey snorted. Spencer said, "This is like, the worst idea ever."

Frank mostly agreed but he said, "Hotel room afterward," because bad idea or no, he thought Spencer sort of deserved some serious penance.

Spencer said, "The things I do to get laid."

Ryan said, "Tux and fancy dinner and boyfriend who totally wants to show you off."

Mikey said, "I want to show you off," softly.

Ryan smiled in the direction of his shoes. Spencer smiled in the direction of Mikey. Mikey grinned back. Spencer asked, "You wanna go? I'm sure Bob wouldn't notice."

Ryan shoved Spencer. Spencer laughed.

"Gerard would notice, but I could make it up to him," Frank offered.

"You realize that's like one step removed from incest, right?" Ryan asked.

Frank frowned. "I didn't mean you could fuck him."

Mikey covered his ears and started singing. Mikey really, really couldn't sing for crap. Frank flicked him with his fingers, but Mikey went right on singing. Mikey could be annoyingly impervious to life when he chose. Frank said, over the cacaphony, "It'll be fun, Spence."

"Oh yeah, I can tell you believe that. No, really."

"Hey," Frank pulled Spencer over to his mirror so that they were standing next to each other in their tuxes. Spencer's face smoothed out a little. Frank said, "We are pretty hot."

Spencer rolled his eyes. Frank said, "We'll make it fun."


Since Frank and Gerard lived right next to each other, all the parents congregated there for the obligatory picture taking. It was annoying, having to stand still and smile on command, but Bob looked sort of ridiculously hot in his tux and Spencer wanted photographic evidence that he'd bagged someone that smoking for a short while. Also, he felt kind of bad lying to his mom, so it seemed only fair to let her have her way for a little bit beforehand. When the last flash had finally gone off she said, "Okay, have a good time, and call me when you get to Ryan's."

"I will," he said and tried not to feel like he was totally going to hell.

Spencer tried to get Bob to let him go dutch for dinner, because he knew Bob used most of the money he made to help his mom with bills, but Bob said, "Gee and I chose this place because we could actually afford it, asshole, and we asked you guys. What with it being our prom, and all."

"Fine, but I'm not getting dessert."

"Oh, way to get your own back on, Smith," Bob said and then manipulated Spencer into sharing his. Spencer's boyfriend was incorrigible. Frank looked snidely amused, for which Spencer was totally going to smack him upside the head as soon as he was within smacking range. Like Frank had anything to be smirking about, with his spoon poised over Gerard's souffle.

The prom theme was "Heaven is a Place on Earth" and it was predictably completely over the top, with cloud decorations and sparkles everywhere. There were some vague murmurings of "faggot" and a shove or two when Bob said, "Um. You wanna dance?" and Spencer conceded to being on the floor for The Pixies. But only because it was The Pixies. Except that then some slow song that Spencer didn't even know--he would have bet Bob didn't either--came on, and Bob said, "Hey, um. Stay."

And it was kind of corny, but there was nothing Spencer didn't like about the way Bob's hand felt on his waist, the way their hips pressed together. Spencer said, "I'm not used to following, so, y'know, sorry if I step on your feet." He did, too, but only a few times, and Bob seemed to recover fairly quickly.

After that they stayed long enough to ascertain that Frank and Gerard were okay on their own--if complete flipping weirdos on the dance floor. Despite the posturing by the several of the kids, Spencer had noticed how others had stood around them in solidarity all night. It wasn't even necessarily the kids that Spencer would have expected, the kids stereotypically likely to support the two gay couples at prom. There were those too: a few girl science geeks, some of the thespian society, the journalism kids. But there were also a few of the cheerleaders, some of the preppy crowd, one or two of the potheads. More than enough that Gerard and Frank could be left safely to their own devices.

Bob went and got the key to their room, which was small but had still probably cost more than Spencer thought Bob should be spending. He would have offered to help out, but he sensed that would only insult Bob. Instead he said, "Look, it's not that I'm not easy for you or anything, but I think we should take the tuxes off first so we don't end up having to pay for damages. Also, I'm not sure how I would explain that to my mom."

"Sensible," Bob said, and got himself right and naked. It was even better than him in a tux.

Spencer said, "Okay, look, if this wasn't what you were thinking--"

"If you don't get naked right now, you are going to have to explain damages to your mom."

Spencer made grumbling noises, but he extricated himself from the contraption and then stood in front of Bob. He said, "Uh."

"I'm not exactly sure how I missed the part where cock is really sexy for so long," Bob said, staring straight at Spencer's.

"Social programming," Spencer told him, somewhat impressed by his continued ability to breathe with Bob doing that.

"So, uh, to be honest, my brilliant master plan kind of ended at getting you naked."

"We could make out. Like, on the bed." Spencer hoped he didn't sound as ten years old as he felt.

Bob nodded eagerly and practically fell onto the bed, reaching out and pulling Spencer atop him as soon as he was near enough. The first touch of their cocks was something else altogether. They had jerked each other off, sure, and even dry-humped, but nothing, nothing like this. Spencer was sure his kisses were sloppy--he just didn't have enough presence of mind to contain them--but he didn't care, couldn't not with how fucking good Bob felt against him.

Bob said, "Speeenceeer," and gripped his ass, pulling him closer, more tightly to Bob, and, "Oh, yes, fuck, Bob, Bob." Most of Spencer's words were lost to kisses, or close approximations of them. Spencer came first, but not by much and they kissed lazily in the aftermath.

Bob said, "Fuck."

Spencer said, "Sleep a little before the next round?"

Bob was already getting them comfortably settled.


"You wanna go?" Frank asked a little after Bob and Spencer left them to themselves.

"Um, well." Gerard rooted around in his pockets until he found what he was looking for. He fished out the key and turned over his palm so that Frank could see. "You can head out, but I think I'll stay."

Frank was looking at Gerard's hand, once more turned into his thigh. There hadn't been any violence so far during the evening, and Gerard really didn't want anybody following them out. Frank said, "Gee, how did you afford--"

"Hey, rude," Gerard said. Besides, he totally wasn't going to admit that Ryan and Mikey had taken up a collection, calling it the 'Have Mercy, Get Gerard Way Laid' Fund.

"I would've helped, is all," Frank said.

"Yeah, because you're rolling in it."

Frank shrugged. "I house sat for city people all summer long. I'm doing okay."

"Are we not going to use the room on the principle of you being pissy that I didn't ask you to help pay?"

Frank crossed his arms. "Don't get all diva on me, Geeway, I've known you too long."

Gerard scowled and then, after a second laughed. He looked at his shoes. "It was a gift from Ryan and Mikey and some others, okay?"


"They called Brian. And Matt."

"Your exes Brian and Matt?"

"I don't know that Matt technically qualifies as an ex." They'd really only fooled around a couple of times. He was more of a friend who had, at one time, provided benefits.

Frank waved a hand. "Semantics. And Brian totally is an ex."

"But a friendly one." Brian was an old friend from back home. They'd broken up when they'd decided long distance dating had been a stupid idea.

"You're kind of amazing," Frank said, and despite the echo of disbelief in his voice, he sounded like he kind of meant it.

Gerard looked at Frank and said, "I find myself good people."

Frank grinned straight from ear to ear. "Let's blow this popscicle stand."

Gerard rolled his eyes. "Mikey feeds you this shit just to annoy me, doesn't he?"

"Aw, Mikeyway has the best expressions." Frank laughed.

"Mm," Gerard said, noncommittally and pulled Frank into the elevator. When the doors closed, they were by themselves, and Gerard chanced a kiss.

Frank pulled away after a little bit to stare up at the ceiling of the elevator. It was mirrored. He laughed. "Sex-ay."

Gerard laughed, too. The elevator dinged at them and Frank stepped off, Gerard one step behind him. Frank asked, "What room are we?"

"Um," Gerard looked at the envelope to the key where the check-in attendant had written '812'. Gerard pulled up to the door. "This one."

Frank pushed him into the room and down on the bed. For someone who was pretty small, Frank struck with force, generally one was least expecting it. It was probably, as these things went, good survival instincts on his part. Frank stripped Gerard of his jacket and vest, then started at the buttons of his shirt. It wasn't that they hadn't seen each other naked a fair amount by this point, but it still always made Gerard nervous, like one day Frank might notice that his boyfriend was, among other things, fat, and definitely not as hot as him.

"Stop that," Frank said.

"What?" Gerard asked. He was just sitting here.

"Thinking you're fat."

Gerard gaped at him. It was Frank's turn to roll his eyes. "I've known you as long as I've known Mikey. You've always had body issues. You always wear pants in the summer and t-shirts to the pool and it's always sucked for me, because all those times I should have rightfully been allowed to look at you as much as I wanted without it seeming weird you totally fucking thwarted me, but no more. It's prom and we have a room and if you don't stop slumping I'm... I'm going to kick you."

"Kick me?" Gerard asked, because that was kind of a lame threat.

"I thought about threatening to withhold sex, but we both would have known I was lying."

"True." Gerard nodded. He asked, "You really... Um, you really like looking?"

Frank's face softened. "Since I was twelve."

"You're only fourteen."

"And you didn't start looking until I showed up on the front steps of high school."

"You were my little brother's friend," Gerard said in his defense.

"I'm just saying. I think if anyone gets to feel awkward and ugly in this relationship, I have the right."

Gerard looked at Frank, all his perfect, tiny parts fitting together just right. Frank said, "Yeah. I can never feel that way when you look at me."

He leaned down to kiss Gerard, who strained up into the kiss. He said, "Frank. Frankie."


"You wanna-- Would you fuck me?"

Frank's breath blew warm over Gerard's lips. "Yeah, yeah, we could do that."

"We should get naked first," Gerard said.

"That's an excellent plan," Frank said, and then it was a race between the two of them, trying to see who could get there first, be ready for the other first. Frank whined, "No fair, I already took care of some of yours for you."

Gerard leaned over and pulled Frank's shoelaces free. "Now you can't complain."

Frank snorted, but toed the shoes off so as to get to his pants and finally his socks. When he straightened up, Gerard was done, smiling like the cat who was fucking frolicking in the cream. Frank leaped onto him. Gerard took his scant weight with a grunt but then held on so that they could kiss, could rub against each other. When he was ready, Gerard rolled Frank over and put the condom on him. Frank said, "Oh, oh."

Gerard said, "Wait," and laid back on the bed, drawing his legs up.

Frank said, "You've done--"

Gerard nodded, "Yeah, just, um. Not a lot. So, fingers, please," and nodded toward the lube he'd put next to the condoms while undressing.

Frank was tentative about it at first, and Gerard had to do some of the work for himself, wriggling down onto his fingers. Frank said, "Jesus," his eyes wide, awed, and got serious. Gerard tried not to rush him, not to push, and was rewarded when Frank finally got to fucking him on his own, the first entry slow, not at all smooth, filled with the broken sounds of Frank babbling endearments. Once he was settled, Gerard couldn't stop himself from begging, "Faster, Frank, pleaseplease."

Frank, evidently, had no problem with that. It was a slightly difficult position to establish a rhythm in--Brian had been much smoother about that, but then, Brian had had practice. Gerard would have to ask him for pointers. Frank managed, sort of, and it didn't matter, because he was hitting the right spots, because he had his hand warm and soft around Gerard's cock, but mostly because it was Frank and that was what Gerard wanted, all that Gerard wanted.

Frank said, "Um, um," and came, falling onto Gerard, the weight of his body crushing into Gerard's cock, shoving Gerard right into orgasm.

Frank panted, "I totally love you."

Gerard laughed but said, "Me too."


At around three in the morning Spencer flipped through the channels and they watched odd-end reruns for a bit before Spencer switched the TV off and said, "Look, you don't have to, if you don't want, but I was-- You could fuck me. If you were interested."

Bob watched him for a long few minutes and then asked calmly. "Spencer. Have you seen your ass?"

"I'm sensing I'm not as impressed by it as you are," Spencer told him dryly.

"That's okay, I'm not dating you for your brains."

Spencer grabbed a pillow and slammed it into Bob's face with as much force as he could muster. Bob said, "Fucker," through a mouthful of pillow--or at least, that was what Spencer thought he said--and then wrestled Spencer to the bed underneath him, pillow and all. When he had his victory, Bob leaned down and kissed Spencer. "Really? You really wanna do that?"

Spencer nodded.

"I'm only going to community college, you know? I'm not even moving out of my house. We don't have to--"

Spencer turned his face to the side, so that he wouldn't have to look at Bob when he said, "It was only an idea," wouldn't have to see Bob's look of relief at being let off the hook.

Bob said, "I'm being kinda chickenshit here, huh?"

Spencer turned back to him. He didn't even bother trying to keep the confusion off his face. Bob said, "It's just, um. I've never-- Well, obviously I've never done that before but back where I was from I wasn't so much a hit with, well, anyone, really, so I haven't at all, if you know what I mean."

It took Spencer a second. Then he said, "It's not like I've done any of this," and very kindly didn't mention the V word.

"It would be better for me if I didn't fuck up with you again."

Spencer shrugged. "Odds are you're going to, sooner or later."

"Thanks," Bob said.

"I probably will too."

Bob laughed. "Okay. Um, I sort-- I stashed stuff, just, y'know, in case--"

"Awesome," Spencer said, and kissed him again before letting him go get what they needed. He rolled onto his stomach, crossed his legs at the knees and secretly enjoyed that Bob tripped over the carpet on his way back to the bed. Bob sat next to him and said, "So, um--"

"You're gonna have to, I mean, I guess I could, but one of us has to stretch, um--"

"Fingers, right?"

Spencer nodded.

"You want me to--"

"Yes," Spencer said, far more turned on than the situation probably merited. Then again, Bob didn't look far behind.

"Right. Okay."

The lube was cold and Spencer might have squeaked in surprise, but Bob was merciful and didn't really mention it, just asked, "Spence?"

"Uh, maybe rub it before-- It's kinda freezing."

"Oh. Sorry, sorry."

"No problem." Spencer laughed. After a second, Bob did too. It wasn't really even that funny, but Spencer couldn't stop, not with Bob right there beside him also laughing, and before he knew it, he wasn't even breathing he was laughing so hard. He rolled onto his side to try and catch his breath. When he finally could, he noticed that Bob was also on his side, chuckling weakly. Spencer said, "Maybe we should relax," and rolled back onto his stomach, looking at Bob.

Bob poured some more lube on his fingers, warmed it, and tried again. "Better?"

"Mm," Spencer replied, getting used to the sensation. After a while, Bob worked a second finger in, but Spencer had played with himself, this wasn't hugely new territory except for the part where Bob's fingers were thicker and infinitely hotter feeling inside Spencer. Bob's knuckle poked at Spencer's prostate--probably by accident--and Spencer breathed, "Holyshityespleasemore."

Bob was evidently more than happy to oblige. He also slipped a third finger in while Spencer was not paying attention not even just a little. After a bit--and another brush at the spot--he said, "Okay, Spence, if it's way too much, just--"

"Jesus, shut up."

"Yeah." Bob's hands settled on Spencer's hips, tugging them up a little. Spencer went willingly enough. Bob pushed in a little and Spencer's breath caught, because, okay, more than he was expecting. Bob said, "Spence--"

"Seriously, not a pussy, do it." Spencer tried to sound relaxed. He tried to be relaxed. Bob sank in further and Spencer bit his lip against the sting, the pressure of it. He was not going to make a sound, not going to. Finally, finally he felt Bob settling skin to his skin and okay, okay, it was over.

Bob said, "Spence, I'm not--"

"Sh," Spencer said, because he needed to get used to this. Then, "Could you, um, your hand--"

"Oh," Bob said, and wrapped Spencer's cock in his fist, and oh, that was much better.

"Okay, you can move."

Bob took him at his word and in the pull back, incidentally found Spencer's prostate again and Spencer squeaked, "Right there."

Bob didn't mention the pitch, just zeroed in his movements on the spot Spencer had indicated. Spencer said, "Ngh, Bob."

"Yeah," Bob agreed, "Spence."

Spencer wasn't even sure he was breathing, it was so good, so intense. Bob said, "Spence, Spence--"

"Okay," Spencer said, because he understood, and really, he didn't have words either. Bob pressed into him, folded over him, coming. When he was done, when he could move, he pulled himself carefully from Spencer and kept at the handjob, pulling Spencer onto his side, against Bob.

Bob said, "C'mon, Spence, c'mon," and Spencer listened.


Mikey and Ryan were already at the IHOP where they were supposed to meet at seven. Mikey rolled his eyes when Frank slid into the booth, Gerard next to him. Ryan just said, "Nice of you guys to make it."

"I don't see Spence and Bob anywhere."

Mikey grinned. "They'll be here in a bit. Ryan called and, uh, woke them up."

Yeah, Gerard would just bet. He grinned back at Mikey, whose smile managed to get a little wider. He asked, "Mom doesn't suspect anything?"

"Seriously, Gee, mom's not a retard. She knows you and Frank weren't going to prom for the corsages."

Gerard put his head on the table. "Linda is so going to kill me."

Frank patted him on the back. "Not if she wants grandkids, she won't. Here, have some coffee," Frank said, and stole Ryan's for Gerard. Gerard took a few sips but then gave it back to Ryan. He'd seen the job Ryan did on Bob, he wasn't an idiot.

Ryan sighed and pushed the coffee back. "I'll order another one. Clearly you need it more."

Gerard raised an eyebrow. "I left you alone with my brother for a whole night--"

"Drink your coffee, Gee," Mikey said.

Normally, Gerard would have pushed, but it was the morning after his prom and Mikey was happy and Frank was sitting next to him and even Ryan seemed pretty pleased with the world. Gerard let it go, and took another sip. When he looked up, Ryan was rolling his eyes, which was his cue to look around. Sure enough, Bob and Spencer had finally shown. Spencer nudged Ryan further into the booth, smooshing Frank between Gerard and Mikey. Bob piled in as well, and they were packed pretty tightly into the corner booth, but nobody seemed to mind.

Ryan was whispering something in Spencer's ear and Spencer was whispering back. Mikey said, "Secrets, secrets," but then made a noise that Gerard suspected equated to Ryan making it up to him by way of the hand that was under the table and nearest to Mikey. Ryan was a clever little bitch, and as much of a handful as Frank was, Gerard was deeply grateful that Ryan was Mikey's to watch after.

They ordered, then, Spencer and Ryan sharing the French toast combo like always, and Mikey, Frank and Gerard splitting the fruit pancakes and Belgian waffles three ways, as was their wont. Bob shook his head at all of them, ordered a country omelet and the buttermilk pancakes and didn't offer to share with anyone. Of course, when Spencer stuck his fork into the pancakes and came away with a sizable cut of starch and syrup and butter, Bob didn't say anything, just retaliated with an attack on the French toast. Ryan said, "Seriously?" but didn't try and beat him to death, so Gerard counted it as a win. From the look on Bob's face, Gerard suspected he was thinking the same thing.

When his mouth wasn't full--Ryan was oddly mannered for a teenage boy; Mikey found it endearing, Gerard found it forgivably bizarre--Ryan said, "So? Prom? Anyone?"

"Gerard and I are awesome dancers," Frank said.

"Pretend I didn't ask," Ryan said.

Spencer laughed. "It was surprisingly chill."

Ryan glared at him. Spencer said, "Relax, I took notes."

"If you're not careful, I'm going to eat all of this," Ryan said without much malice.

"Bob'd let me in on his," Spencer told him. Bob, wisely, just kept eating.

Gerard cut a piece of the pancakes drenched in blueberries and whispered to Frank, "Open."

Frank let him in.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile