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Part Two

Summer began to turn towards fall, bringing with it Michael’s birthday. He had made plans to celebrate the occasion with a dinner party, inviting quite a few of his friends—including Frank, before he’d discovered the truth about Gerard.

Frank wasn’t certain, now, whether he should consider himself still invited or not. Calling at the Way household again didn’t seem the best idea, and as the day drew closer, he had yet to encounter Michael out and about anywhere. He finally wrote a letter, short and formal, trying to say what needed to be said while avoiding any specific mention of Gerard or their situation.


I should like, first of all, to apologize for my behaviour the other night, and to request that you convey that apology to any others I may have offended.

Secondly, I have an enquiry concerning your birthday. If, after recent incidents, you or any other concerned parties would prefer I not attend, I would understand completely. If, however, my invitation still stands, I can promise that I will do my utmost to avoid any further unpleasantness.


The reply he received was even briefer, and similarly to the point.


If you still want to attend, I would be more than glad to have you there. I do hope we can avoid any unpleasantness, and you may rest assured everyone here will do their best to see that we do.


Gerard had been as solitary as ever since Frank’s last visit to the house, but he wasn’t about to spend Michael’s birthday hiding in his room—even if that would have meant being able to avoid seeing Frank again.

“Are you certain about this?” Michael asked him that morning. “If you’d prefer not to be at the party, I would understand.”

Gerard shook his head. “I can’t hide in my room forever, and I don’t want to miss your birthday party. I think I can stand to be around him for one evening with other people about.”

It was easy enough to say that with confidence; Gerard only hoped he would be able to hold himself to his word when he found himself face-to-face with Frank again.

Frank still felt uncertain, arriving at the party, but he squared his shoulders, rang the bell, and walked inside, nodding pleasantly to the butler and exchanging greeting with a few other guests before finding Michael in the parlour.

“I’m sober as a judge, and I came in through the front door,” he announced. “I hope that will set a good tone for the evening.”

“So do I,” Michael replied, and then gave one of his unexpected smiles. “I’m glad you came, Frank.”

Frank returned the smile. “Happy birthday.” He glanced around, raising his eyebrows. “Is…?”

“He’s still upstairs,” Michael informed him. “Dithering or fussing with his cuffs or something of the kind, I imagi—wait, here he is,” he finished, glancing over Frank’s shoulder.

Frank turned to see Gerard descending the stairs. He paused when he noticed Frank standing next to Michael, paling slightly (not that he had much colour to begin with), and then continued down, jaw set in a determined expression.

Frank had seen him several times in a dress and once half out of a dress; the last time, when Frank had barged into Gerard’s room unannounced, he’d been in stocking feet and a loose, stained shirt. This was the first time Frank had seen him dressed properly, like a gentleman.

He looked very striking in a neat black coat and waistcoat, his only adornment a bit of lace at the cuffs and collar. His dark hair was loose, falling around his face in sharp contrast to his pale skin, and his eyes were as captivating as ever.

Altogether it was quite the entrance, and Gerard had attracted quite a bit of attention by the time he reached the foot of the stairs. Frank heard someone behind him say “So this is the mysterious brother.”

“He exists after all,” Frank replied over his shoulder, and saw Gerard blush faintly.

Michael went to meet him at the foot of the stairs, and they exchanged a few quiet words (Michael perhaps convincing his brother not to flee back upstairs), before coming back into the parlour together. Gerard paused as they passed Frank, glancing at him uncertainly.

“Good evening,” Frank said, inclining his head slightly. “Gerard, isn’t it?”

Gerard gave a tiny, hesitant smile. “Yes. Good evening, Frank.”

They were seated several places away from each other at dinner, making it nearly impossible to talk without slighting their closer companions. That suited Frank well enough; he was eager to speak to Gerard again, but not with an audience.

After dinner there was brandy, and more informal conversation, and a few people took turns playing the piano or singing. Frank had been careful to drink lightly at dinner, and noticed Gerard doing the same; he took two glasses of brandy now, but only filled them halfway, and approached Gerard, who was standing at the back of the room.

“May I speak with you alone?” he asked in a low voice, adding, when Gerard gave him a slightly dubious look, “I would ask Michael to chaperone, but taking him away from his own party seems both unfair and more likely to attract attention.”

“True,” Gerard allowed, and, after a thoughtful pause, “Come with me.”

He led Frank through a side door into what looked like a small study; Frank glanced around the parlour as they left, and no one seemed to be taking any particular note of their departure.

“So long as we don’t shout, no one should be able to hear our conversation over the music,” Gerard explained as he shut the door. He took one of the brandies when Frank offered it, but only toyed with the glass a bit, not drinking yet. “Very well, what did you wish to say?”

Frank took a hasty sip of his own drink, fixing his gaze on the book-lined wall behind Gerard rather than look directly at him.

“I’ve been thinking, these past few days,” he began awkwardly. “As you suggested I should.”

Gerard ducked his head, loose hair falling over his eyes. Instantly, Frank’s fingers twitched, wanting to reach out and tuck it behind his ear.

“And?” Gerard prompted gently. “Have you reached any conclusions?”

Frank sighed. “Yes and no.” He took another sip of brandy, swallowing too fast and wincing a little at the burn in his throat, and pressed on before he could reconsider his words. “What it comes down to is this: I have certain feelings for you that I don’t fully understand, but cannot deny. I doubt I ever would have conceived them if I hadn’t believed you to be a woman, but they haven’t diminished upon my learning your identity, as I thought they might.”

Gerard was looking at him now, cheeks tinged with pink, eyes wide. He looked as though he wanted to be pleased, or relieved, but wasn’t quite sure either was appropriate. The longer Frank looked at him, the more he wanted to either grab Gerard and kiss him or flee the room, so he turned away, pacing back and forth in agitation as he went on.

“Everything I know, everything I’ve been taught, tells me it’s wrong to feel as I do. And yet—and yet there’s something within me that calls it right, and it won’t be ignored.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Gerard murmured. “I’ve been aware of my own…inclinations since I was a boy. Whether they’re right or wrong, I can’t say; they’re enough a part of who I am that it doesn’t matter. It may not be that way for you.”

“Perhaps not,” Frank agreed. “Perhaps I don’t care.”

Gerard met his eyes for a moment, and then glanced away, swallowing hard. “You say that because you don’t know what it’s like.”

“I’m beginning to learn,” Frank replied, taking a step closer. “It would be easier if I could disregard these feelings, I know, but knowing that hasn’t helped me to do it.”

“So what do we do?” Gerard asked softly, looking at him.

“I don’t know,” Frank replied honestly. “At the moment, all I know is that I want to kiss you.”

He heard Gerard’s breath catch in his throat, but he didn’t object or move away, and, after a moment, Frank leaned in, tilting his face upwards. Gerard did move, then, bringing a hand up to cup Frank’s jaw and hold him still.

“Frank—” he began. “If you still have doubts about this—”

“If I have doubts,” Frank murmured, “then I’ll bear in mind that I have only myself to blame for acting in spite of them.”

Gerard still looked uncertain, but in spite of it he leaned in, touching his lips to Frank’s lightly. Frank pushed against his hand, trying to deepen the kiss, and Gerard gave in, his hand sliding around to cup the back of Frank’s neck.

Frank remembered there being a desk somewhere to the side; he reached out with one hand and groped about until he found it, then set his drink down, reaching to take Gerard’s as well. Gerard relinquished the glass easily, and before Frank had even finished setting it down, Gerard’s fingers were framing his face again. Held in both Gerard’s hands now, Frank couldn’t take control of the kiss as easily as he would have with a woman. It was strange, but the shiver it sent down his spine was not an unpleasant one.

Gerard held him still when he tried to push forward again, but Frank could still use his own hands, and did, bringing them to Gerard’s waist to tug him closer. At the same time he opened his mouth, tongue darting out to trace Gerard’s lower lip. Gerard made a startled noise at that, his own mouth falling open, and Frank pressed his advantage for a moment before Gerard broke the kiss, gasping like a man coming up from deep water.

“Frank—however far you may be willing to take this, this is hardly the time or the place.”

Frank took a step back, feeling dazed. For a few moments, it had been the easiest thing in the world to forget everything but Gerard; now, with distance between them, he was again acutely conscious of where they were, of the other people just on the other side of the door, of how different this was from any tryst he had ever even considered before.

“Of course,” he said, letting go of Gerard’s waist and stepping back further. Gerard let go as well, clasping his hands behind his back. “Should we go back to the party?”

“We can, if you like,” Gerard said. “But…” he paused, then went on, a bit awkwardly. “I feel as though we still barely know each other, Frank, and I’d like that to change. I think it would be best if we kept our distance, but would you sit and talk with me, for a while?”

Frank smiled crookedly. “I’ve been wanting to know more about you since we first met, I’m hardly going to turn down an invitation to do so. The others may come looking for us eventually, though.”

“Let them,” Gerard replied, with a tiny smile of his own. “They’ll find us having a perfectly normal conversation, as any two gentleman might.”

They were still talking about half an hour later, when Michael poked his head into the study and said, in a slightly pointed tone, that he’d been wondering where the two of them had gone. They rejoined the party after that, Frank talking easily with the other guests, Gerard mostly keeping quiet, but answering pleasantly enough when spoken to and laughing now and then at some joke.

As the evening wore on, the crowd thinned out, until the only remaining guests were Frank, a young lady by the name of Miss Simmons, and the slightly older cousin who was acting as her chaperone. Gerard had noticed Michael being as attentive to Miss Simmons as he could without neglecting his other guests, and wasn’t surprised when he offered to escort her and her chaperone home (on foot, as they apparently lived quite close).

“I can leave the two of you to keep each other occupied, I suppose,” he said to Gerard and Frank, causing Gerard to choke on the sip of brandy he’d just taken.

Frank only smiled, managing to look remarkably innocent. “I think we’ll manage.”

They said their goodbyes to the departing trio, and then stood together in the parlour, alone in the house now except for the few servants and Gerard’s parents, who had retired to bed hours ago.

“He likes her very much,” Gerard said at length. “I can tell.”

“What, you mean Michael and Miss Simmons?” Frank asked. “She’s pretty.”

Gerard nodded, gazing down at his shoes. A moment later, he heard Frank moving closer and looked up.

“You’re rather pretty yourself, if I might say so,” Frank told him, low.

Gerard blushed at the unexpected compliment, glancing toward the parlour door. With the party essentially over, the servants would be in to neaten the room soon, so that they could seek their own beds.

“I know,” Frank said when Gerard opened his mouth. “Not the time or place.”

“Not the place, no,” Gerard said, and hesitated briefly before going on, a little amazed at himself. “But if—if you’d care to come upstairs with me, I think now may be as good a time as any.”

Frank looked surprised at the invitation, but not—Gerard hoped—displeased. “Really?”

“If you’d like to,” Gerard said quietly.

Frank looked down for a moment, taking a deep breath, and then gave a firm nod. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I believe I would.”

They went up the stairs quietly, even more awkward now than before. The uncomfortable silence lasted until they were in Gerard’s room, until Gerard turned to say something and found Frank’s lips on his almost at once.

Gerard made a low, pleased noise, bringing his hands up to rest on Frank’s shoulders as Frank’s hands curled around his waist. He let his fingers trail downwards after a moment, unbuttoning Frank’s coat and pushing at it until Frank let go of him to shrug it off, letting it drop to the floor carelessly. Gerard was quick to follow suit, tossing his own coat toward a chair but not sparing a moment to see if it landed there, and then they were kissing again, deep and heady, until Gerard’s head was spinning.

Frank reached around to press a hand against Gerard’s back, and Gerard pushed closer without thinking, bringing their bodies together. For a moment he could feel Frank, hard and hot against his thigh—and then Frank jerked back, looking startled, and Gerard felt his stomach drop as he realised what must have caused that reaction.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, starting to draw away. “If you want to stop—”

“No, no, it’s all right,” Frank replied hastily. “It’s—just let me—”

He reached between them, and when his fingers brushed Gerard’s cock, even through layers of cloth, Gerard’s hips jerked forward helplessly. Gerard kept his eyes locked on Frank’s face; he was looking down, lower lip caught between his teeth and a determined, almost stubborn look on his face. His hand curled around Gerard’s cock, gingerly at first, but then firmer, surer, bringing a helpless moan from Gerard. Frank looked up at that, and an almost mischievous smile darted across his face, just before he ran his fingers up and back down the hard length. Gerard bucked forward again with a strangled noise, and then grabbed Frank’s wrist.

“Wait—come here—”

Taking Frank by the hand, Gerard backed up until they were standing beside the bed. Raising his other hand to Frank’s chest, he touched the top button of Frank’s waistcoat and asked “May I…?”

Frank nodded, reaching to untuck his shirt and shrugging out of the waistcoat as soon as Gerard had it unbuttoned. He jumped a bit when Gerard’s hands slipped beneath his shirt and settled on his bare skin, but raised his arms eagerly to help Gerard rid him of the garment.

He was beautiful, small but well-made, and as soon as his hands were free he reached out, making quick work of Gerard’s buttons. Gerard shed his own waistcoat and shirt more hesitantly, suddenly more self-conscious about his own soft, pale body. But Frank tugged insistently until Gerard’s upper body was as bare as his, and then bent his head to press a kiss to Gerard’s shoulder, eliciting a shiver.

Gerard put his hands on the fastenings of Frank’s breeches, then paused. “Frank…are you certain about this?”

“I’ll tell you if I want you to stop,” Frank said firmly.

“All right,” Gerard whispered, and bent his head as he undid Frank’s breeches, concentrating as if the task were far more complex and difficult.

Frank stepped out of his shoes and bent to push his breeches and stockings down, and as he kicked his clothing away and stood, Gerard could do nothing but stare. Frank smiled, reaching out to tug at Gerard’s waistband.

“I may never have bedded another man before,” he said, “but it seems to me that, ideally, both of us should be naked at some point.”

Gerard bit his lip and took a step back, kicking off his shoes as he did so. He shed the rest of his clothing quickly, before hesitation could grip him again, and looked up to see Frank staring as intently as Gerard had been staring at him a moment ago.

“I know I’m not much to look at,” he began, only to have Frank snort derisively.

“Yes, and I’m such a paragon,” he said, and then held out a hand. “Come back here.”

Gerard took his hand, and Frank drew him close, his other hand reaching up to thread into Gerard’s hair and pull him down for a kiss. Gerard let his mouth fall open under Frank’s, his free hand curling around Frank’s waist and closing the small distance between them. Their cocks brushed again, bare skin on skin, and Frank broke the kiss with a gasp, but he wasn’t flinching or pulling away this time.

“Oh,” he breathed, clutching at Gerard’s shoulders with both hands. “Oh—that’s—”

“Good?” Gerard asked, moving against him.

Frank drew in a sharp, hissing breath, pressing his face into Gerard’s neck. “Christ, yes.”

Gerard turned his head, scattering kisses along the side of Frank’s face. He had one hand at the small of Frank’s back and the other splayed between his shoulder blades, holding him close. He almost wanted to stay like this and just press against Frank until the world went white, but at the same time he wanted to pull back, linger, make this last.

Frank looked briefly disappointed when Gerard backed away, but didn’t object when he realised where Gerard was headed. Gerard climbed onto the bed, kneeling on top of the rumpled covers and moving back to give Frank room to join him, and Frank followed, pushing Gerard to lie on his back, but resisting when Gerard would have pulled him down as well.

“I believe,” he said, bracing himself on one elbow and trailing the other down Gerard’s chest, “that before we paused earlier, I was somewhere around…here.”

His hand skimmed over Gerard’s belly and down to wrap around his cock again, and Gerard thrust up into the touch with a gasp. Frank touched him slowly, carefully, watching Gerard’s face.

“Is this good?” he asked. “It’s a bit odd, doing this to someone else…”

“It’s perfect,” Gerard said breathlessly. He had one hand fisted in the bedsheets; the other flailed about for a moment before landing on Frank’s arm, the one he was using to hold himself up. “Don’t stop, please don’t stop—”

Frank leaned down, speaking close to his ear. “I want to do this well, Gerard,” he whispered. “I want to see you lose control and know it’s my doing.”

“Frank—” the name came out in a broken moan as Gerard squeezed his eyes shut. Frank’s hand sped up, stroking him rougher and faster, and then Gerard was throwing his head back and gripping Frank’s arm and crying out wordlessly, hips jerking erratically as he spilled into Frank’s hand.

“You’re beautiful,” Frank whispered into the stillness that followed, and Gerard opened his eyes, blinking up at him. Frank frowned slightly. “You don’t think you are, do you?”

Gerard looked away, rubbing Frank’s arm distractedly—he’d left nail-marks there, a few moments ago. “I felt beautiful in the dresses,” he said at length.

“You were,” Frank assured him. “But you were more so just now.”

Gerard felt himself blush, an almost giddy smile starting across his face. “Still a flatterer, I see.”

Frank touched his jaw, turning Gerard’s face back towards his. “And I still mean every word,” he said, and kissed him.

Frank was still hard; Gerard could feel him pressing against his thigh. He put a hand on Frank’s shoulder and pushed gently, rolling onto his side as Frank lowered himself onto the bed. They resumed kissing with barely a pause, and Gerard slid his hand down to Frank’s chest. He took his time, circling one of Frank’s nipples slowly with his thumb and then pressing down, making Frank twist against him and moan into his mouth.

Gerard’s hand continued downward with that same leisurely slowness, mapping out Frank’s skin. Frank was clearly impatient, pushing up against Gerard’s hand eagerly. Gerard glanced up at him with a positively mischievous smile, then threw one leg over Frank’s knees and braced his arm across Frank’s hip, holding him down.

Frank made a noise of protest, although he could likely have thrown the restraining hold off, if he’d tried. “Don’t tease,” he demanded.

“Who said anything about teasing?” Gerard asked innocently. “I don’t want to rush through this.”

“You needn’t rush, just touch me, for the love of God.”

Gerard leaned down, seeking to distract him with a kiss. Frank let himself be drawn in, opening his mouth under Gerard’s, and when Gerard finally wrapped a hand around his cock, he broke the kiss with a startled, strangled noise, arching up into the touch.

“If you think I’m beautiful, you should see yourself right now,” Gerard whispered.

With Frank so close, Gerard didn’t need to do much. He twisted his hand a little as Frank rocked into it, trailing kisses down Frank’s neck to his chest, and then covered one of Frank’s nipples with his mouth, running his tongue over it, marveling a bit at his own daring. Frank cried out at that, thrusting harder and then stilling suddenly, and Gerard stroked him through his climax, scattering kisses across his face.

The worst of the mess having been wiped away with a loose corner of the sheets, they lay close together, one of Frank’s arms tucked around Gerard and Gerard’s hand now low on Frank’s belly, rubbing in small circles. For a while they were silent, kissing slowly now, without the urgency of earlier, and then Frank spoke.

“Well. It seems my doubts about this were less than insurmountable.”

“And now?” Gerard asked, with only a little hesitance. “Any regrets?”

“None so far,” Frank replied, and pulled back to look Gerard in the face. “I won’t pretend this…all of this…isn’t still strange to me. But no, I don’t regret it.”

Gerard ducked his head a bit, lowering his eyes. “I imagine it must be. Strange, I mean. But if you still want it in spite of that…”

Frank reached one hand up to push Gerard’s hair back from his face, tuck it behind his ear. “It’s what I want right now. Is that enough?”

Gerard nodded, eyes closed. If the time came when Frank didn’t want this—didn’t want him—any longer, it would hurt, of course. But whereas Gerard’s habits were old and deeply rooted, Frank was younger, rushing headlong into infatuation, and it might be better for him if that infatuation proved fleeting. Gerard had resigned himself to lifelong bachelorhood years ago, but Frank could someday have a pretty wife and children with his bright eyes and infectious laugh, a family and a home and a good life.

All Gerard had to offer, in contrast, was himself.

“Gerard?” Frank murmured, and Gerard looked up to see an expression of concern on his face. “I don’t want to hurt you,” Frank went on. “But I don’t want to raise expectations I can’t be sure of meeting.”

“No, it’s all right,” Gerard assured him. “I understand. And I would not ask for more than you feel you could give.”

Frank leaned in close again, kissing him lightly. “I suppose I should leave soon,” he whispered against Gerard’s lips.

“I suppose,” Gerard agreed reluctantly, even as his hand slid from Frank’s stomach to his hip, as if the mere mention of Frank’s leaving compelled Gerard to keep him there as long as possible.

Frank pressed closer willingly, kissing Gerard’s brow, his cheek, the shell of his ear. “I don’t want to,” he admitted eventually, and then pressed his lips to the hollow beneath Gerard’s jaw, where his pulse beat. Gerard shivered and gasped, arching his head back as he threaded a hand into Frank’s hair to hold him there.

“Then stay a bit longer,” he whispered, when he could speak again.

All Gerard had to offer was himself, and yet Frank was in his bed, still in his arms, and whatever might come after, that was enough for now.

Gerard woke to muted grey light and soft rustling noises—the sounds of someone getting dressed, he realised, and squinted his eyes open to see Frank standing at the foot of the bed, buttoning his waistcoat.

“What time is it?” he muttered (or tried; not all of the syllables made their way out of his mouth), and Frank looked up.

“I wasn’t going to leave without waking you,” he said at once, and then, “It’s nearly five.”

The servants would likely be stirring soon, if they weren’t already (Gerard had very little idea when they actually woke, given as he was to rising several hours later). Frank needed to leave now, Gerard knew—and yet he held a hand out, as if to beckon him back into bed, and Frank came to his side, the mattress sagging as he perched on the edge.

“If anyone sees me here, or wants to know where I’ve been when I get home, I’m going to tell them we continued our conversation upstairs after the party ended,” he told Gerard. “I had a bit too much to drink and fell asleep in my chair, and you let me stay rather then walk home in such a condition.”

Gerard nodded; it was as good a story as any to explain one man spending the night in another’s room.

Frank reached out to stroke Gerard’s hair gently with one hand, leaning over him. “May I see you again soon?” he asked softly.

Gerard smiled up at him sleepily. “As soon as you like.”

It was difficult to keep from clinging when Frank bent and kissed him, difficult to keep from opening his mouth under Frank’s and pulling him down, morning and servants and sense be damned. Instead, Gerard let the kiss linger for one long, sweet moment, and then broke it, pushing at Frank’s shoulder lightly. “Go.”

What followed was unlike any relationship Frank had ever found himself in before.

On the surface, they were friends, and that was true enough in its own right. Michael’s reclusive brother and his considerably more extroverted friend had taken a liking to one another in spite of their differences, and as a result they began spending a great deal of time together, often with Michael, sometimes with other mutual friends.

And when they found a chance to be alone, they took it, exchanging furtive kisses and hushed words behind closed doors. They were highly conscious of the risks they were taking (although they had so far avoided anything that could truly be called a crime; Frank’s idea of sodomy was extremely limited and mainly seemed sordid and painful, and Gerard, perhaps suspecting that, had made no mention of it), and cautious about the time they spent together.

It was likely still the most foolish thing Frank had ever done, and, looking at the situation objectively, he might be inclined to wonder what he was doing, whether it was worth the risk. But he found that he wasn’t able to be objective about it often; being with Gerard was still intoxicating, even with the familiarity between them growing. It was foolish, it was risky, it was complicated, and he was, at least for the time being, unwilling to give it up.

Autumn drew on, and Frank’s own birthday arrived, over a month after Michael’s. He had planned to spend the evening out with friends, and naturally extended an invitation to both Way brothers. He was, therefore, more than a little disappointed when only Michael arrived.

To the group at large, Michael said only that Gerard was, unfortunately, indisposed, and sent his regrets. But a few minutes later, he seized an opportunity to beckon Frank aside, speaking to him in a low voice. "He says he'll meet you at our house later."

Frank quirked an eyebrow. "He didn't want to come out with us?"

"I think he's planning something," Michael replied, adding dourly, "I didn't ask for any details, and I don't want any later, either."

Michael's words left Frank extremely curious, but tried to keep his thoughts in the present and enjoy the evening with his friends. Still, the idea of what Gerard might be planning never left his mind entirely, and later that night, when he and Michael bid their friends goodnight and headed together for the Way house, he felt his heart beat faster.

He and Michael went up the stairs together, talking quietly--a thing which no one in the household would have thought at all curious. But when Michael stopped at the door of his own room, Frank continued down the hall to Gerard's, rapping his knuckles lightly against the door and calling out softly, “Gerard? It’s Frank.”

"Come in," came the low reply, and Frank slipped inside, closed the door securely behind himself, and then turned--and stared.

Gerard stood before him in the blue dress, the one he’d been wearing at their second meeting at Vauxhall. He had left off the wig, simply gathering his own long hair at the back of his neck instead, but his eyes and lips were painted, his figure curved with the shape of the stays he must have been wearing, and the illusion of femininity was still a passable one.

“I wanted to surprise you,” Gerard said, and went on after a brief pause, uncertainty creeping into his tone. “Do…do you like it? You always seemed to like me in the dresses before, but if you’d rather I not wear them now—”

Frank crossed the room in a few steps and cut him off, taking Gerard’s face in his hands and kissing him deeply. He could smell the perfume Gerard had put on; a light floral scent, enticing but not overpowering.

He drew back after a moment, one hand cupping Gerard’s cheek, the other curled around the back of his neck, and spoke.

“This is—I wouldn’t have known how to ask for it, or if you would have wanted to—”

Gerard smiled, smoothing one hand over the silk of his skirts. “I wore them for myself, at first, but I’ve no objection to wearing them for you. Far from it.”

“You look beautiful,” Frank said, taking a step back to look him over.

Gerard gave a small, almost coquettish smile, backing up until he could lean against the wall beside the bed, hands folded behind him. “I’m glad you’re enjoying looking at me, Mr. Iero, but I hope you might be inclined to do more than simply look at some point.”

Frank grinned and followed, crowding Gerard back even further and bracing one hand against the wall beside his head. “I think I may be willing to oblige you.”

He leaned in slowly, taking his time, and Gerard held still, lips parted, letting Frank come to him. Their lips brushed lightly, at first, almost tentatively, until Frank moved again, bringing his other arm up and around Gerard’s waist and pulling Gerard firmly against him in one decisive motion. Gerard gave a little gasp against Frank’s mouth and raised his hands to Frank’s shoulders, pliant and yielding in his arms.

Frank took his hand away from the wall to tangle it in Gerard’s hair, tugging it free of the pins that held it in place as gently as he could, breaking the kiss to trail his mouth down the white line of Gerard’s throat. He pushed forward experimentally with one knee, and Gerard spread his legs with no further urging, letting Frank press him back against the wall and kiss him until they were both flushed and breathless.

At last, Gerard turned his head to speak in Frank’s ear, his breath shallow and uneven. “Far be it for me to interrupt,” he whispered, "but if I don’t take this dress off soon, it’s going to be ruined, and I am rather fond of it.”

Frank drew back a bit, his own breathing unsteady. “Well, then. In the interest of preserving the dress…”

Gerard stepped out of his shoes, nudging them aside with one foot, and turned to stand with his back to Frank, gesturing to the fastenings of the dress. “Would you…?”

“With pleasure,” Frank replied, and pressed a kiss to the smooth skin of Gerard’s shoulder, making him shiver, before setting to work on the row of tiny buttons. When they were all undone, Gerard pushed the dress down, the silk rustling as it landed in a heap around his feet. Stepping free of it with Frank’s help, he bent to pick the dress up, smoothing the skirt with one hand, and laid it aside carefully.

Gerard struggled out of his petticoats with less concern for the state they landed in, and then turned back towards Frank, now wearing only a short linen shift, stockings, and the stays that were still laced tightly around his middle. Frank extended a hand, running one finger along the hard ridge of the whalebone.

“Would you—” he began, and then stopped, uncertain, feeling his cheeks warm.

“What?” Gerard prompted, and, when Frank remained reticent, “Frank, I’m wearing women’s undergarments, I doubt I’m going to balk at whatever it is you want.”

Frank grinned in spite of himself at those words, and then, before he could hesitate again, “Would you leave these on? Would that be uncomfortable?”

Gerard raised his eyebrows a little, and then shook his head. “The worst part is putting them on, they’re not so bad once I’m in them.” He raised a hand to his stomach, resting it against the stays, and looked at Frank curiously. “…Do you like them?”

Frank’s face flooded with heat at that, and he knew he must be blushing.

“It’s all right,” Gerard said, moving closer and lowering his voice, as if they were in danger of being overheard. “Tell me?”

Frank hesitated a moment longer. “Let’s get into bed,” he suggested eventually, hoping an even more intimate setting than the one they were currently in would make it easier to speak.

Gerard nodded, and helped Frank remove his jacket and waistcoat. Frank stripped down to just his shirt then climbed into bed after Gerard, who moved over to make room and then drew the coverlet up over both their legs, though the room was not very cold.

Gerard said nothing further, only propped himself up on one elbow and looked at Frank, and after another moment’s silence, Frank spoke.

“You remember the night I discovered who you were?” he began softly.

Gerard bit his lower lip, eyes downcast. “I doubt I could ever forget it,” he replied, equally soft.

“You were undressing,” Frank went on. “And I saw you like that, and that was how I realised…and afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was angry—”

“I remember that, too,” Gerard whispered, eyes closed, tension in the line of his shoulders.

Frank raised a hand to his cheek, stroking gently, and waited until Gerard relaxed and leaned into the touch before continuing.

“So at first, I thought that was all it was. I was angry, and I was brooding over the thing that had made me angry, as anyone might do. But then I realised…that wasn’t the whole of it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it—about you, dressed like this—and anger was only part of what I was feeling.” He let his hand trail down, tracing over Gerard’s breastbone to rest on the stays. “And when I thought of you, started dreaming about you—not the woman I took you for at first, but you—you were often dressed just as you are now. So, yes, I suppose I do like it.”

Gerard still seemed downcast, not looking at Frank. “I’m sorry,” he said after a brief silence.

Frank’s eyebrows went up. “For what?”

Gerard glanced up at that, seeming puzzled. “…For everything I did. For deceiving you. I should never have done it, and I beg your pardon.”

Frank shifted closer, resting his hand on Gerard’s hip. “I should hope you don’t sincerely regret doing it,” he whispered. “For if you hadn’t, we wouldn’t be together now.”

Gerard looked at him, brow furrowed. “But—you were so angry, you said it yourself. And you had every right to be—”

“I did, and I was,” Frank said simply. “And then I moved past it. I won’t say the deception wasn’t wrong, but…but I don’t think that necessarily makes what followed wrong. If you hadn’t done as you did, I doubt I would ever have come to feel as I do about you, and I won’t let the circumstances it came from make me regret that.”

Gerard looked at him for a moment, then smiled tentatively. “All right.”

Frank leaned in and kissed him, then put a hand to his shoulder and pushed gently, until Gerard sank back on the bed as Frank moved over him. Kneeling astride Gerard’s legs, Frank laid both hands on his chest and then swept them down, over stitching and boning and the curved line of Gerard’s waist until they rested on his hips. Gerard sighed with pleasure, pushing against Frank’s hands gently. Sinking back into the pillows and watching Frank with half-lidded eyes, he looked fey and mysterious, his allure undeniable for all that it was strange.

“I wish I could tell you how you look right now,” Frank whispered. “How you looked to me earlier, when I knew it was you in the dress.”

Gerard reached a hand up to touch Frank’s cheek, thumb tracing over his lower lip. “Try?”

Frank paused, searching for the right words. “You still look very like a woman—pretty and soft and sweet.” He let his hands trail down further, until he could slip one between Gerard’s thighs, under the pushed-up hem of his shift. “But I know you’re still a man, beneath it all. And you might think that would spoil the illusion, but…but somehow, it only makes it better.”

“Oh—” Gerard gasped, flushed and breathless from either Frank’s words or the movement of his hand, or both. A moment later, his hands were on Frank’s shoulders, pulling at him insistently.

Frank slid his hands back up to Gerard’s waist as he moved between his open thighs, marveling for a moment at the feel of Gerard against him, unlike anything he’d ever felt before. It was already strange to think of a time when he could never imagine this, never imagine wanting it. Gerard clutched at him, hips jerking upward, and then they were thrusting mindlessly against each other, all frantic heat and friction until Gerard went rigid, and the quiet, breathy moan he let out at the moment of climax pushed Frank over the edge a moment later. Frank gasped and went limp on top of Gerard, still twitching with aftershocks, and Gerard held him with that surprising strength of his, stroking his hair with one hand.

After a few moments, Frank stirred, raising himself up on his elbows. Gerard still seemed short of breath, and Frank tugged at the stays. “Are you sure you’re all right in these?”

“They are easier to breathe in when I don’t have someone lying on top of me,” Gerard admitted, with a slight wheeze. Frank moved off of him quickly, and he rolled to the side. “Help me out of them?”

Frank nodded, tugging the laces free gently. “How did you manage to get into these without help?” he asked, after having to pause and undo a tangle.

“That’s why I needed time to get ready,” Gerard replied, and then glanced over his shoulder with a small smile. “Perhaps if we do this again, you can help the next time.”

Frank felt a little thrill go through him at the image those words evoked in his mind, and then finally managed to undo the last of the last of the laces. When Frank pulled the stays away, Gerard tugged the shift off as well and brought his legs up to strip off his stockings. Even through the linen of the shift, the stays had left red marks on Gerard’s pale skin, running up and down his sides and cris-crossing in the middle of his back. Frank ran a finger along one of the shallow grooves, and then bent to kiss it, making Gerard gasp and arch his back. At once, Frank wanted him to do it again, and pressed Gerard down once more, this time onto his stomach.

“I’d like that,” he said, bracing himself above Gerard and leaning down to kiss him in a different spot. “If you dressed up again, I mean, but also helping you.”

“I’m glad,” Gerard said, smiling into a pillow, and then stirred. “What time is it? How long can you stay?”

“A little while longer, at least,” Frank replied softly, sliding one hand up Gerard’s side and kissing his shoulder. “We have time.”

It was very likely madness to be here, for any length of time. But then, perhaps it was madness simply to feel as he did. Frank wasn’t about to let that stop him.
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August 2013


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