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Part Three

Gerard can't resist dressing up a little to go meet Grant at the docks. Grant knows about Louise from the letters they've exchanged over the years, but he's never actually seen Gerard in drag, and given that the last time they were together Gerard was an awkward seventeen-year-old, he finds himself wanting to make an impact.

He guesses he succeeded in that, because as he stands at the dock in a new navy silk dress, his favorite black heels, and a hat with a totally pointless but adorable little veil, he gets several appreciative glances and a whistle or two from passing sailors. He ignores them placidly, standing with his arms folded while he waits for the steamer Grant said he would arrive on to start letting passengers disembark.

When Gerard finally spots Grant making his way down the gangplank, he looks pretty much the same from a distance--tall, shaved head, sharp suit. When he gets a little closer, Gerard can see lines around his eyes and mouth that weren't there before, but Grant even wears those well, and he looks handsome and dignified. He's walking slowly, scanning the crowd, and then his eyes land on Gerard and Gerard smiles at him. Grant comes closer, recognition blooming across his face.

"My god," he says softly, and there's a note of pride in his voice that makes Gerard's smile widen into a grin. "Look at you."

"Hello, Grant," Gerard says, and takes a step forward, holding out his arms.

Grant drops his suitcase and sweeps Gerard into a hug. In all honesty, Gerard had wondered if this would be awkward. Not in the way Frank might have worried about--Gerard loves him and he's not going to let anything mess with that--but the last time he and Grant touched they were lovers, and now they're not, and that could be weird.

It is weird, he realizes as Grant's arms go around him, but it also feels really, really good. He slips his arms around Grant's waist and buries his face in the rich material of Grant's jacket, and it feels a little like coming home.

"It's good to see you," he murmurs into Grant's jacket.

"And you," Grant replies, and draws back to look at him again. "You look lovely."

Gerard smiles. "Thank you."

Grant picks up his suitcase again, offers Gerard his other arm, and they start walking.

"So, if you'd rather just stay in and enjoy not being on a boat tonight, I completely understand," Gerard tells him. "But if you want, you can have dinner with me and Frank, and then come with me to Rouge."

"Of course I want to see you perform," Grant says. "And I'd very much like to meet your young man. And your brother, if he's in town."

Gerard shakes his head. "Mikey's back in Boston, he has an exam he can't miss this week. He's going to come down again when he can, hopefully before you leave, I'd like it if you two could meet."

They take a cab to Gerard's apartment, so Grant can leave his suitcase there and Gerard can give him a quick tour, and then head to meet Frank. He's waiting at a table when they get to the restaurant, and stands as they approach, extending a hand to Grant.

"Unless Gerard decided to ditch his friend at the docks and pick up a random stranger for dinner, I'm guessing you're Grant," Frank says as they shake hands.

"Who's Grant?" Grant asks, with a perfectly innocent expression, and Frank seems thrown for a second and then laughs.

"I like this guy already," Frank says to Gerard as he pulls Gerard's chair out, and Gerard smiles broadly.

"Good."

Gerard doesn't want to spring stories about the mafia and requests for money on Grant when he just arrived, and Frank's letting him lead on this, so they stay away from that topic during dinner. Instead, Grant tells them about where he's been traveling lately, Gerard tells Grant about his reunion with Mikey--he'd given him the basics in his last letter, sent in the brief window between when Grant had gotten back to Scotland and when he left again for New York, but he doesn't mind telling it again in person--Frank tells bad jokes, and Gerard watches Frank and Grant interact. There's a certain standoffishness, a sense of them taking each other's measure, but he's delighted to see that they seem to be getting along. They're both charmers when they want to be, and by the end of the meal they're talking like old friends.

The standoffishness resurfaces a little when the check comes, and Frank and Grant both reach for it.

"Let me get this," Grant offers, but Frank shakes his head.

"No, man, you're the one visiting," he insists gently. "Our treat."

Grant nods acquiescently, withdrawing his hand. "Very well, but if we do this again, the next one's mine."

"Fair enough," Frank agrees. He pays up, then glances at his watch. "And I hate to say it, but I've got to get going, I have a...business thing."

Gerard lays one hand on top of his. "Come to my place later, if you can?" he asks, and then adds significantly, "We can talk about things."

"Sure," Frank says, and smiles. "I might be a little late, but I'll be there." He lifts Gerard's hand to his lips and kisses it, then stands and extends his hand to Grant again. "Nice to meet you, Grant."

"Be careful," Gerard can't resist adding as he watches Frank go. When he looks back at Grant, Grant's eying him shrewdly.

"And what is it that we're going to talk about, later?" he asks softly.

Gerard ducks his head, biting his lower lip. "I'd rather not talk about it right now, and I didn't want to just start asking you for things as soon as you got here," he says, and then looks up to meet Grant's eyes. "But we might need a favor."

Grant nods solemnly. "Tell me what you need, and I'll see what I can do."

Gerard smiles gratefully. "Thank you. But right now, we'd better get going, too."




As Gerard expected, walking into the backstage area of Rouge on the arm of a tall, handsome Scotsman causes a bit of a stir. Gerard makes the introductions, then leaves Grant to fend for himself as he changes and does his makup. Grant seems to fend rather well, gracefully fielding questions about kilts and what is or isn't worn under them and looking tolerantly amused as the girls exclaim over his accent.

Grant watches Gerard's performance from the wings that night, and when Gerard heads off, he's there, smiling fondly.

"You look good out there," he says.

Gerard grins. "Thanks. Let me just get my things and we can go back to my place, assuming the girls'll let you out of here in one piece."

"Mm, some of them do have a bit of a Maenad look about them," Grant says. "You distract them and I'll slip out the back."

Frank's not at the apartment when they get there. Gerard tells himself there's no reason to worry yet.

"You want coffee?" he asks Grant.

"If you're going to make some anyway," Grant says.

Gerard smiles, heading toward the kitchen. "Grant, at any given time, if I don't have a pot of coffee made already? I'm going to make some."

When Gerard goes back out to the living room with a mug in each hand, Grant's standing by the bookshelves, looking through Gerard's books and records and knicknacks.

"You've made a good life for yourself here," he says to Gerard. "It's good to see."

Gerard smiles wryly. "It's good to have."

They sit side-by-side on Gerard's shabby but comfortable sofa, sipping their coffee and waiting. Frank said he'd be late, but it's already after midnight, and Gerard's automatically nervous when he knows Frank's doing business these days.

Eventually, Grant reaches out, brushing the backs of his fingers against Gerard's hand where it's wrapped tightly around his mug, and says softly, "Do you want to keep waiting for Frank to arrive before we talk, or do you want to tell me what has you so tense?"

Gerard sighs, letting his shoulders slump. In some ways this feels like a repeat of when he told Mikey everything a few weeks ago, only it's simultaneously better and worse. Worse because he has even more reason to be worried for Frank now, better because unlike a few weeks ago when he had no idea what to do, now there might be a way out.

He shifts on the sofa, turning to face Grant with his back resting against the arm. "Okay, so...to start with, how much do you know about organized crime in America?" Grant's eyebrows go up, and Gerard nods. "Yeah. That's what has me so tense."

He tells Grant everything; Frank's history as a bootlegger, his deepening involvement with the Sicilians, their plan to make a run for California. Grant listens attentively, no sign of judgment in his expression.

"I take it that's the favor you mentioned earlier?" Grant asks when Gerard gets to the part about how they need money.

Gerard hesitates, then nods. "I wouldn't want you to think--I mean, I hate to just ask you for money the first time we see each other again, like that's the only reason--"

Grant shakes his head. "Stop that. I only wish I could do more to help than just give you money, you seem so terribly afraid for Frank."

Gerard closes his eyes and draws in a shaky breath. With his emotions running so high already, Grant's kindness is overwhelming. That feels familiar, too.

"I am," he says in a half-whisper. "You know what's really terrible? The worst part isn't even being afraid he'll get hurt--don't get me wrong, that part's pretty bad. But the worst is being afraid they'll make him do something awful, something he can't come back from."

He feels Grant move closer on the sofa, feels a hand on his shoulder and goes with no resistance, pressing his face against Grant's shoulder as Grant tucks an arm around him.

"He has someone who loves him very much," Grant says softly. "That's the sort of thing that helps you keep hold of yourself, no matter what situation you end up in. As long as he has you to hold onto, I think you'll be surprised at how well he bears up. But in the interest of his not having to bear up too long, I suppose cash would suit you better than a check?" Gerard nods against his shoulder. "I'll have to wire my bank in Scotland for a transfer tomorrow, then."

"Thank you," Gerard murmurs, and then raises his head. "I don't even know how to--you've always been so good to me, and I'm so grateful for it, but I don't understand. I've never really understood it."

Grant draws back a little, studying his face. "You've always reminded me somewhat of myself. We're alike in many ways, you and I, and I don't just mean our sexual preferences. It's always seemed to me that the main difference between us is that I was more fortunate as a young man. Calling my parents liberal would be an understatement--they were always very supportive, very understanding."

"That sounds nice," Gerard says, thinking about his own parents. It's an old wound, but it still aches a little.

"It was," Grant says with a fond smile. "But the older I got and the more I saw of the world, the more I started to realize that not everyone's so fortunate. Whatever guides us through the universe, whether it's gods or karma or just blind luck, I was dealt a good hand in a world where many others aren't, and I like to pass some of that good on, when I can. You're not the first person I've helped out of a bad situation, and I doubt you'll be the last." He touches Gerard's face gently, tracing the line of his jaw. "But between the two of us, you're among the dearest."

Gerard smiles and leans forward, tilting his head to kiss Grant on the cheek. "I've been fortunate, too," he says softly. "Even if I've had my share of bad situations, I've also got you and Mikey and Frank in my life, and that's worth a lot. And maybe someday I'll be able to help someone the way you've helped me. I'd like that."

He draws back, wiping his eyes with the back of one hand, and stands to take their mugs to the kitchen. "It's getting pretty late," he says. "Don't let me keep you if you need to go."

"Actually," Grant says. "Feel free to throw me out if I've outstayed my welcome, but if you'd like, I could wait with you until Frank gets here."

Gerard pauses in the hall entrance, looking back at Grant with a smile. "That would be nice."

When he gets back out to the living room, Grant's standing by the bookshelf again, looking through Gerard's records. He puts Gershwin on the phonograph and goes back to the sofa, and Gerard joins him there, toeing off his shoes and drawing his legs up on the cushion. He leans his head against Grant's shoulder again and Grant shifts a little to accommodate him, and it's comfortable and easy.

"So," Grant says after a moment. "California?"

"That's the plan," Gerard says, glancing up at him. "Have you ever been there?" Grant nods, and Gerard smiles. "What am I saying, of course you have."

They talk about that for a little while, but as it gets later the conversation peters off. Gerard doesn't mean to fall asleep, but when the door opens he startles awake, no idea what time it is. Frank's standing in the doorway with a faintly quizzical look, brow furrowed, and Gerard's...curled up against Grant with sleep-rumpled clothing and his head on Grant's shoulder.

"Hey, man," Frank says to Grant. Gerard doesn't particularly care for the careful evenness in his tone, but he can imagine he wouldn't be thrilled to come home and find Frank so cozy with someone else, especially if it was someone he knew was a former lover. "Are you staying here tonight?"

"I was just keeping Gerard company," Grant says smoothly. "But I suppose I should be getting along now."

He shifts, and Gerard straightens to let him up. Grant finds his hat and suitcase, drapes his jacket over one arm, and then looks back at Gerard. "I'm at the Plaza," he says. "Come by or call anytime, you can leave word at the desk if I'm not there."

"All right," Gerard says, smiling at him. "Goodnight, Grant."

Grant turns to Frank, extending a hand, and Frank shakes it. "See you around," Frank says, and the tone of his voice is casual but the set of his shoulders says otherwise.

The silence after Grant leaves shouldn't feel awkward--Gerard hates that it feels awkward--but it does. Gerard stands, picking up his shoes and letting them dangle from one hand.

"I didn't know you'd be this late," he says, and he's not sure if he's making excuses for his own behavior or reproaching Frank for his. "I was worried."

Frank holds his arms out at his sides. "I'm fine," he says. "Sorry I couldn't get here sooner, though."

"It's okay," Gerard says. He walks over and puts his hands on Frank's shoulder, leaning in for a kiss. Frank kisses back easily enough, but there's still tension in his shoulders Gerard doesn't like. "Let's just go to bed, I'm beat."

"Fine by me," Frank says, and kisses Gerard once more, briefly, before moving past him and down the hall, shrugging out of his jacket.

Gerard drops his shoes by the hall closet and follows, but pauses in the doorway, leaning against the frame. Frank's not saying much, not asking any questions, but words bubble up inside Gerard as though he had. "Grant just wanted to wait with me, until you got in."

Frank glances over his shoulder, unknotting his tie with brisk, quick movements. "What's that supposed to mean?" he asks flatly.

Gerard shrugs uncertainly, but Frank just keeps looking at him, and after a moment Gerard blurts out, "It means nothing happened, Frank."

Frank's hands go still, and he turns to face Gerard fully, his expression perfectly calm. "Did I ask if anything happened, Gee?"

Gerard folds his arms defensively, not dropping his gaze. "You're acting like you want to," he says quietly.

Frank looks at him a moment longer, then drops his eyes to the side. "Shit," he mutters, and then walks over, raising one hand to Gerard's face. "Baby, it's not...I trust you, okay? I'll always trust you." Gerard tips his cheek against Frank's hand, and Frank goes on softly. "But I was being an ass just now, and I'm sorry. I guess I'm just used to being the only guy you lean on like that."

It's sweet and sincere, and Gerard feels bad about what he says next, but not enough to not say it. "I can't lean on you if you're not here."

Frank sighs, then leans in to kiss Gerard quickly. "I know."

Gerard leans into Frank, raising his hands and sliding them into Frank's hair. They stay like that for a few seconds, and the silence isn't awkward anymore, but it's still heavy.

"And now I feel bad bringing it up, because I was a jerk to him," Frank says at length. "But...?"

Gerard smiles faintly. "Grant and I talked about it, he said it's fine, he'll help us." He lifts his head, meeting Frank's eyes. "We'll work the details out tomorrow, all right? All of us together."

"All right," Frank says. "Good. Thank you for asking him." He kisses Gerard again, and he doesn't have to say anything else for Gerard to know how relieved he is. Gerard leans into the kiss eagerly, opening his mouth under Frank's, and steers them back toward the bed.




They stay in bed late the next day, kissing and touching lazily, but with a kind of quiet desperation behind it, like if they pretend the world outside Gerard's bedroom doesn't exist it'll leave them alone for a while. When they finally emerge, Gerard calls the Plaza, and it doesn't take much for Grant to talk him (and, by extension, Gerard to talk Frank) into dinner at the Palm Court, his treat.

Eight years later, walking into the Plaza is still an impressive experience. Gerard doesn't get up to the expensive part of Fifth Avenue very often, and it's hard not to feel out of place here. But he knows they both clean up well--Frank in one of his nicer suits, Gerard in lavender and pearls that aren't real but look like it--and when he spots Grant waiting for them at a discreet corner table with a warm smile, the rest of the room could be empty.

Grant stands as they approach, and as he and Frank shake hands, Frank squares his shoulders and speaks up.

"I've never been very good at apologies, but I'd like to think I can admit it when I've done something worth apologizing for," he says. "I'm sorry about last night. I've been under a lot of stress lately, but my mother raised me better than to take my stress out on other people."

"Apology accepted," Grant tells him solemnly. "Considering everything Gerard told me about last night, I'd say stress is putting it mildly."

They leave the topic there briefly while the waiter takes their order, but once he's out of earshot, Grant reaches into his suit jacket and pulls out a brown envelope.

"I wasn't sure just how much you'd need, so I thought I'd err on the side of caution," he says, sliding the envelope across to Gerard.

Gerard picks it up and looks inside, and his eyes widen. "Grant, this is...this is too much. We can't--"

"Yes, you can," Grant says firmly. "Getting to California is one thing, you'll need something to help you land on your feet once you're there."

Frank's looking at Gerard curiously, and Gerard slides the envelope across to him. Frank looks, and his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. "Shit. What the hell are we gonna do with this much?"

Grant shrugs. "Buy a cabaret in San Fransisco, buy a ranch in the country, take Hollywood by storm--whatever you want to do with it."

Frank's brow furrows, something obviously not sitting right with him. "Look, I don't want to be rude again, or seem ungrateful." He gestures to the envelope and says, bluntly, "But that's a lot of money to just hand someone with no strings attached. Even when it's someone you know as well as Gerard, and especially when it's someone you know as little as me."

"Frankie--" Gerard starts, wanting to intervene. He doesn't know if he can explain to Frank what Grant made clear to him last night, but he can try. Grant stops him, though, with a gently upraised hand, and leans forward a little, meeting Frank's eyes calmly.

"I understand your reservations," he says. "But if I were going to place any conditions on this, I would tell you. If you don't know me well enough to take my word for that, please believe Gerard does." He gives a slight shrug. "It's money, Frank. Little pieces of paper that only have value because governments tell us they do and we agree to take their word for it. And I've reached a point in my life where it doesn't have much value to me unless I do something worthwhile with it."

"And you think a handout to us is worthwhile?" Frank asks, still uncertain.

"Two brilliant young people, very much in love, who need help to start a new life together?" Grant looks between the two of them and nods. "Yes, Frank, I think that's very worthwhile."

Frank looks down, the line of his shoulders relaxing a little. "I--jeez, I am being rude again, sorry." He looks up, meeting Grant's eyes. "No one's ever done anything like this for me. I don't know how to--" he shakes his head. "Thank you, Grant. Just...thank you."

Gerard reaches out, touching Grant's hand with his own where it rests on the table. "That goes for me, too," he says softly. "I'm still not sure we deserve this, but I'm awfully glad you think we do."

Grant covers Gerard's hand with both of his, smiling. "Remember what I told you eight years ago," he says. "You deserve every good thing life has to offer. If I can be the one to bring good into your life, it's my pleasure."

Gerard looks down, blinking rapidly. "Damn it, Grant, the last time you made me cry I wasn't wearing mascara."

Frank and Grant both pull out their pocket handkerchiefs at the same time, which makes Gerard laugh, a few tears spilling over. He takes Frank's, dabs at his eyes, and then leans over to put his arms around Grant's neck, hugging him tightly. Grant's arms go around his waist, and Gerard kisses his cheek.

"I could spend the rest of my life saying this and it wouldn't be enough," he whispers. "But thank you."




After that, it finally feels like their plan is really in motion, like they're gaining momentum and only some kind of collision could stop them now. Frank procures the fake papers they'll need to build new identities for themselves in California, which get stashed under a loose floorboard in Gerard's apartment along with the money from Grant. Gerard gives his notice at Rouge, which hurts to do, but Ricky gives him a list of people to look up for work in Los Angeles and Steve gives him a bottle of champagne and strict instructions to save it for when he and Frank christen wherever they end up living.

Frank makes the promised information drop-off, a sheaf of papers full of names and places and code phrases sealed in an envelope and stuck to the underside of a park bench. He's tense and tight-lipped afterward, and he warns Gerard they might have to run on short notice if it seems like anything went wrong, but days later nothing's happened and Frank seems a little more ready to believe Toro's a man of his word.

Gerard starts packing, whittling his possessions down to what will fit in the back of a car, the things he can't bear to leave or would have a hard time replacing. Frank brings over a few things to stow at Gerard's in preparation. His pile is pretty small: a single suitcase, a milk crate crammed full with books and records, and his guitar. Gerard has a much harder time deciding what to take and what to leave behind.

"I swear I don't remember buying this many shoes," he says, while Frank's is helping him go through his closet one night. "I think they multiply in the closet when I'm not looking."

"What are you gonna do with the ones you don't take?" Frank asks, holding up one rhinestone-covered shoe and eying it dubiously.

Gerard shrugs. "Bring them all to work, I guess. Either someone'll take them or Ricky can keep them around as spares." He finds the mate to the shoe Frank's holding and takes them both, looking down at them for a moment. "That's one thing I'm gonna have to find in California," he says, a little wistfully.

"What, a shoe store?"

Gerard holds up the shoes, smiling wryly. "A shoe store that consistently stocks women's shoes in big sizes. Have I ever told you how jealous I am of your feet? You've got tiny fucking feet, motherfucker."

Frank snorts. "Thanks, I guess." He looks down, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, and then glances back at Gerard, his expression serious. "Look, I really appreciate how game you're being about all this. I know it's not easy."

Gerard shrugs, putting the shoes in the 'keep if possible' pile. "It's not that bad."

"You don't have to pretend," Frank says. "I feel bad enough already about the fact that I'm making you do this."

Gerard sits down on the bed, looking over at him. They've been dancing around that, but it's been pretty clear to Gerard that Frank's wrestling with it. "Frankie," he says softly. "I'm not going to pretend I wish it wasn't happening this way. But if it wasn't--if you weren't in trouble, if we didn't have to leave, and you asked me to go to California with you anyway, do you know what I'd say?"

"Aside from asking if I hit my head because that's the only way I'd want to move to California if I didn't have to?" Frank says, with a hint of lingering sullenness.

Gerard smiles. "Aside from that. And aside from suggesting we wait until after Mikey graduates so he could come with us right away." Gerard shrugs. "I'd do it, Frankie. I may wish I'd had a little more time to think it over before I made the decision, but even if I had, it would've been the same."

Frank looks at him, not convinced. "But you love it here."

"I love you more," Gerard tells him. "I lived in this city for years without you, and I thought I had everything I needed. Now I know I wouldn't want to go back to that."

Frank smiles crookedly, self-deprecating. "Yeah, who'd want to live without some asshole dragging you into trouble with the mob?"

"I'm serious." Gerard says, reaching for him. "You think I'd still be with you if I didn't think you were worth it? Come here."

He tugs gently at Frank's arm until Frank comes to sit on the edge of the bed, and Gerard moves behind him, slipping his arms around Frank's waist and resting his chin on Frank's shoulder.

"For a while before you showed up, I was starting to think I'd never find a guy who really got me," Gerard tells him. "Even here. I used to bring home guys I met at Rouge, and I'd think if anyone was gonna be able to understand who I am, it'd be one of them. And then every time, I ended up feeling like I couldn't really be myself around them, like I was still performing all the time. Like they wanted Louise, but didn't really want to get to know Gerard."

Frank puts a hand on Gerard's arm, leaning his head sideways against Gerard's. "Their loss."

Gerard smiles softly, dropping a gentle kiss on Frank's shoulder. "See, that's exactly what I mean. You know who I am and you've always accepted it--hell, you were the first person besides Mikey who ever did. And, I mean, you've always made it really, really clear how much you like the way I dress, but you also know exactly who I am underneath it all, and you want to be with me anyway."

Frank twists around awkwardly, raising one hand to cup Gerard's cheek. "Of course I do," he says, like it'd be crazy for anyone not to.

Frank kisses him, and Gerard closes his eyes and leans into it, kneeling up for a better angle. Frank turns on the bed to face him fully, sliding one arm around Gerard's waist and tugging until Gerard's half in his lap. Gerard twines his arms around Frank's neck and deepens the kiss, pressing their hips together to make Frank moan. The hand on Gerard's cheek moves around and up into his hair while Frank's other hand presses against the small of his back.

It's intense, but it's a slow burn, no sense of urgency or need to hurry. They stay pressed together like that, one lingering kiss after another, until Frank pulls back and rests his forehead against Gerard's.

"Do you want to fuck me?" he whispers breathlessly.

Gerard nods at once. They don't do it that way often, but if it's what Frank wants, he's definitely not going to say no. He kisses Frank once more, then pulls back so they can both get undressed.

Frank stands and sheds his clothing quickly, no messing around, then climbs back onto the mattress on his knees, facing the head of the bed and wrapping his hands around the top rail of the iron frame. Gerard undresses and kneels behind him, putting his hands on Frank's shoulders and kissing the back of his neck. Frank ducks his head, letting out a breath and relaxing under Gerard's touch. More than anything else in that moment, Gerard just wants to hold him, so he gives into the urge, sliding one arm around Frank's shoulders and the other around his chest, under his raised arms. Gerard knows he's not the only one grateful to be able to show his true self; Frank spends so much of his time trying to hide any sign of vulnerability, but when they're alone, he lets his walls come down.

Gerard stays like that for a few more moments, holding Frank tight, then pulls back a little and reaches into the nightstand drawer to slick his fingers up. He preps Frank slowly, circling with his fingers for a few seconds before pressing in, kissing Frank's shoulder when he draws in a sharp breath. Frank's not as used to this, so Gerard takes his time, stretching him gently, patiently. Finally Gerard pulls back, wiping his hand carelessly on the sheets. He wraps a hand around the base of his cock and lines up, then pushes in slowly, his other hand gripping Frank's hip.

Frank makes a low noise in the back of his throat, his grip on the bed frame tightening. Gerard tilts his head to mouth at the side of Frank's neck, whispering reassurances and encouragement against his skin, and starts moving, setting an easy, gentle rhythm.

Frank pushes back against him, matching Gerard's pace and meeting every thrust. They move together, the bed frame creaking a little as they pick up speed. Keeping one hand braced on Frank's hip, Gerard reaches around with the other, wrapping his fingers around Frank's cock. Frank lets out a loud moan, rocking back hard, and Gerard gasps, steadying his hold on Frank's hip as it slips a little.

"You're so gorgeous like this," he whispers in Frank's ear. "I love you so much, baby--"

Frank reaches down and covers Gerard's hand with his own, angling his head back to press his forehead against Gerard's cheek as Gerard kisses his temple, his ear, wherever he can reach. "I love you," he replies breathlessly. "Gerard--"

They speed up even more, Gerard's thrusts becoming erratic, tangled fingers moving quick and rough on Frank's cock. Frank comes first, letting out a short, sharp cry as he spills over their joined hands. Gerard follows a moment later, gripping Frank tightly and moaning into his neck as he shudders all over.

Gerard drops his head down to rest his forehead against Frank's shoulder, panting for breath. After a moment, he pulls out gently, kissing Frank's shoulder when he whimpers. Frank lets go of the bed frame and twists around, reaching for Gerard, and they kiss as deeply as they can at the awkward angle.

It takes an effort to get up and go to the bathroom for a washcloth instead of just collapsing into bed. Once they get cleaned up, they lie down facing each other. Gerard slings his arm across Frank's waist, and Frank reaches out to smooth Gerard's hair back and stroke his cheek.

"We're gonna make it," he says, low, confident. "Whatever happens, wherever we end up, we're gonna make it together."

Gerard meets his eyes, smiling softly. "Yeah," he replies. "Yeah, we are."




Before long, what will hopefully be their last week in New York is drawing to a close. They have it all worked out; Mikey's coming in on the train Friday evening, by which time Frank and Gerard will have bought a cheap used car and loaded it with the things they're taking. That night, they'll have dinner with Grant and Mikey followed by Gerard's farewell performance at Rouge, and in the morning Grant and Mikey will see them off, with Gerard's promise to write to Grant and send Mikey a California address as soon as he can.

That's the plan, anyway.

The first thing that happens to throw the plan off is that Mikey's train gets delayed.

"--goddamn fallen tree on the tracks," he tells Gerard over the phone. "Took forever to clear."

"But you got into the city okay?" Gerard asks. He was in the middle of dressing for dinner when the phone rang, and now he's balanced awkwardly on one foot in the hallway, holding the earpiece in one hand and trying to fasten his right shoe with the other. "Where are you?"

"Yeah, I'm at Penn Station," Mikey says. "I just don't want to hold you up--should I head to your place, or just meet you...where are we having dinner, again?"

Gerard wins the battle against his shoe and lowers his leg, smoothing his skirt out. The dress he's wearing tonight is his absolute favorite, a slinky black halter gown with a slit up the side and beading all over it. Might as well make the most of his last night in New York. "The Palm Court at the Plaza," he tells Mikey. "Do you know how to get there? Maybe you should come here first, we can wait."

"Gee, I think if I hail a cab and say 'take me to the Plaza', the driver's gonna know which Plaza I mean," Mikey points out.

"...Right," Gerard says. "Well, then I guess let's just meet there."

There's a sudden sharp knock on the door, loud and insistent. Gerard looks up, startled, and then cranes his neck around to look at Frank, who's waiting on the couch and looks as surprised as Gerard feels.

"Mikey, hang on," Gerard says, and then to Frank, in a low voice, "He's at Penn Station and Grant knows we're meeting him at the Palm. I'm not expecting anyone else, you?"

Frank's expression turns wary and sharp in an instant. He gets to his feet, one hand reaching inside his jacket. "Stand clear of the door," he says, voice low, tone don't-argue-just-do-it flat.

Gerard swallows hard and ducks back into the hallway. "Mikey, just listen," he says, quick and deadly serious. Over his shoulder there's another knock, even louder. "In a second I'm either going to feel really silly or I'm gonna hang up without saying goodbye. If it's the second one, call Detective Toro and tell him to come here. Don't come yourself."

"...What?" Mikey's clearly taken aback. "Gerard, what--"

Gerard ignores him, pressing himself against the living room doorway and watching Frank with his heart in his throat. One hand still in his coat, Frank stands alongside the door and reaches to turn the handle.

He opens it just a crack, with the chain still on, and then instantly tries to slam it shut. There's a loud thud and a sharp crack, and Gerard's door swings wide, the chain dangling where it's been torn free. Frank falls back a step, pulling a gun from his jacket, but it's too late, because Vince is standing there with his own gun pointed right between Frank's eyes. It all happens in an instant; beside Vince, Leo's foot is still outstretched from when he kicked the door in.

Gerard hangs up the phone.

"You're gonna want to drop that," Vince says amiably, and Frank lets go of his gun. "There you go. Kick it over to Leo. You," he adds, without even glancing in Gerard's direction, "come out here and join us, and keep your hands where we can see them."

Gerard swallows, his mouth desert-dry and his heart pounding, and steps out into the living room, hands open at his sides. Leo retrieves Frank's gun when Frank kicks it over, and stands next to him, putting the gun right against Frank's temple, and once he's there Vince lowers his arm and shifts his attention from Frank to Gerard.

"Well, well," he says, in that same friendly tone that kind of makes Gerard want to punch him, except for how that would be suicide. "Don't you look pretty? Big plans tonight?"

Gerard darts a glance at Frank, who's staring at him with so many things in his eyes--apology, anger, fear, caution--but Frank can't help him right now. He looks back at Vince, summons his nerves and commands his voice not to shake. "Dinner reservation, as a matter of fact. I don't suppose we could convince you to let us make it?"

Vince chuckles. "Sweetheart, another time you might be able to convince me of a lot," he says meaningfully. "But Leo and I need to have a talk with Frankie here, and something tells me he'll be more cooperative if you stick around while we have it." He waves his gun toward the sofa. "Have a seat."

Gerard obeys, clenching his hands tightly in his lap as he sits down. Vince walks over and leans against the arm of the sofa, which is about five feet closer than Gerard wants him, and looks back at Frank.

"Well?" Frank says. "You want to talk, start talking."

"You really don't know when not to mouth off, do you?" Vince says, sounding almost impressed. "But since you asked, I was hoping you could clear something up for me. There's this nasty little rumor going around that you might have talked to the cops. Well, a cop, specifically. Detective, name of Toro."

Frank's only change of expression is to raise one eyebrow. "That's what you kicked the door in for? You could have just asked, and I would've told you that yeah, I talked to him. In the sense that he approached me and I told him to fuck off."

Vince wags his finger at Frank, smiling. "See, that's what I said. Not Frankie, I said. If he said anything to a cop, it was either 'fuck off' or 'I want a lawyer', nothing else. But then I heard something else that bothered me, about you going to a forger for some IDs and paying him off not to tell anyone. That sounds like the sort of thing a guy would do if he was planning to skip town, don't you think?"

Frank snorts. "If I was gonna pay a forger off for something like that, don't you think I'd pay him enough that he'd actually keep his mouth shut?"

"Oh, of course, I'm sure you paid him well," Vince agrees. "Trouble is, your money would only count for so much if this forger's brother--his only brother, I might add--then happened to get himself in real, real deep playing the ponies."

There's only a flicker of a reaction from Frank, and Gerard only catches it because he knows Frank's face so well. He wonders how well Vince and Leo know it.

"Now, a guy with a brother in trouble like that might talk out of his ass to try and save his brother's," Vince concedes. "But when you put those two rumors together--you maybe talking to a cop, and you maybe paying a forger for fake IDs you don't want anyone else to know about--well, I'm sure you can understand that paints kind of a troubling picture."

Frank looks at him squarely, not blinking. "The forger's full of shit and I've told the cops exactly nothing," he says, with utter conviction. "How much of an idiot do you think I am?"

Vince just smiles even wider. "I'm not sure you'd like my answer to that question, Frankie," he says, and then shrugs. "But you know what? You sound so sincere, I think I believe you."

Gerard holds his breath. It can't be this easy. There's no way--

"...But I don't think Leo does," Vince finishes. "Leo?"

Leo thinks for a moment, then shakes his head. "Don't think I do, Vince."

Vince sighs, shaking his head. "Well, that's a shame. What are we gonna do about that?"

Frank stands firm, his jaw clenched. "I have a feeling you're about to tell me," he says, and more than anything else, he sounds tired. He sounds like he's running out of fight, and Gerard could have happily lived his whole life without hearing Frank sound like that.

Vince reaches out one hand to tuck Gerard's hair behind his ear, and Gerard holds his whole body ramrod-straight so he doesn't flinch or slap the hand away. "Well, I wouldn't want anything unpleasant to happen in front of Louise here," he says. "I wouldn't want to upset her. So I think the best thing would be if you and Leo take a walk in the alley out back, and you do your best to convince him. I'll keep Louise company up here."

Frank holds for another second or two before he breaks. "Look, Vince, just let her go," he pleads. "Do whatever the fuck you want to me, just leave her alone."

"Frank," Vince says, and shakes his head sadly. "You know as well as I do there's no point trying to bargain when you've got nothing to bargain with."

He nods to Leo, who grabs Frank by the collar and hustles him out the door. Frank casts one last desperate look at Gerard, and then he's gone.

Vince glances back at Gerard. He's leaning against the sofa very casually, looking relaxed, but the gun's still in his other hand, resting on his thigh. Gerard focuses on breathing steadily, trying to run through options in his head. Or non-options, as the case may be. There are knives in the kitchen and a thin, sharp stiletto tucked into the bottom of his handbag. Vince is a foot away from him holding a gun. Gerard's stronger than a would-be attacker might expect, and he knows how to use his weight to throw someone off-balance and go for the most vulnerable spots and dig his thumbs into a man's eyes. Vince has a gun. His neighbors or Carl the handyman might come running if Gerard screams. Gun. If Mikey did as Gerard said and was able to reach Toro, Toro could be on his way right now. That seems like the closest thing to a hope he's got.

"Guess it's just you and me now," Vince says, and straightens, moving around so he's in front of the couch. "And as long as we're waiting, maybe we should get to know each other a little better."

...Yeah, waiting for the cavalry might not be such a good option after all. Gerard stands, sidestepping quickly before Vince can block him in. "Don't take this personally, but I think I know you about as well as I want to," he says.

"Aw, come on." Vince advances on him, and Gerard backs up automatically, realizing too late that he's put himself in a corner. "I don't think you want to be unfriendly right now, do you?"

Gerard's back hits the wall, and he braces himself against it and lifts his chin defiantly, not knowing what else to do. "Look, I don't want any trouble--"

"Of course you don't." Vince closes the distance between them, grabs at Gerard's hip with one hand and raises the gun in the other. "So be a good girl and hold still."

The barrel of the gun rests against Gerard's cheek, and all of a sudden, he's deadly calm. He's seventeen again, on his knees in an alley. He's in the passenger seat of a stranger's car, fumbling for the door handle and bracing himself for impact. He holds himself perfectly still, waiting, and the gun is cool and smooth against his cheek and Vince's hand is rough as he slides his palm down Gerard's thigh and then back up, gathering the fabric of Gerard's dress and pushing it out of the way--and then he freezes.

"Surprise," Gerard says weakly, and then drives his knee into Vince's groin and his elbow into Vince's face with all the strength he can muster.

Vince strikes out reflexively even as he goes down; the gun slams against Gerard's cheek and Gerard tastes blood in his mouth, sharp and coppery. But then Vince is huddled on the floor with one hand between his legs and only a loose grip on the gun, and Gerard kicks it free and then dives for it. Vince recovers a little and throws himself after Gerard, landing half on top of him. They struggle, fabric rips, and then Vince is on top of Gerard, straddling him, but Gerard has the gun firmly in one hand, the other steadying his wrist, and the barrel pressed right in the center of Vince's forehead.

"If you're wondering if I know how to use this thing, the answer's 'yes'," he says flatly. "Of course, at this range with the safety off, it's pretty self-explanatory anyway."

"You--" Vince says, halfway between disbelief and anger. "You're a guy."

"And you're fucking heavy," Gerard replies. "Up." He presses forward with the gun, forcing Vince back, and moves carefully, getting his legs under him while not letting the gun dip.

Vince's expression is starting to settle into anger, his hands clenching helplessly at his sides. "I should've guessed Iero's a fairy," he sneers. "That fucking--"

Gerard presses forward with the gun again, hard enough that he knows it'll leave a mark. "Given the circumstances, sugar, you might want to watch your language," he says sweetly.

Vince's sneer widens. "Fuck off, you're not gonna shoot me."

Gerard raises one eyebrow. "Oh, I'm not?"

"Believe me, asshole, you gotta be a certain type of person to shoot someone point-blank, and I can tell you're not it," Vince tells him. "You may have a dick under there, but you don't have the balls for that."

Gerard holds the gun steady, looking him right in the eyes. "You know what?" he asks after a moment, and then moves fast, whipping the gun to the side and slamming the butt into Vince's temple, doing it once more for good measure when he slumps on the floor.

"You're right," Gerard says calmly. He stands, steadying himself with a hand on the wall and tugging his dress--ripped now, thanks a lot, asshole--down over his legs. He sweeps his hair back from his face, touches his split lip gingerly, and looks around, taking stock of things.

After a moment's deliberation, he grabs Vince by the legs, dragging him to the bedroom with some difficulty. The bed frame's iron, the heaviest piece of furniture in the apartment, and Gerard uses one of Frank's neckties to tie Vince's wrists to the bedpost. He doesn't know how long Vince will be out and he doesn't know if he might be strong enough to just flip the whole bed over or something, but he does know how to tie a very tight knot. Once that's done, he picks up the gun again--it makes his skin crawl a little, heavy and foreign in his hand, but he'd much rather have it than not have it right now--and hurries out the door and down the stairs.

Outside, he moves cautiously around the side of the building, going slow. Then there's a noise from the back alley, a thud and a muffled sound of pain, and Gerard gasps and breaks into a run.

The sight that greets him as he rounds the corner isn't pretty. Frank's on his knees, blood on his face and shirtfront. Leo's looming over him, one hand gripping Frank's collar, the other balled into a fist and pulling back for another blow. Gerard shouts, raising the gun and cocking it, and they both look over.

Gerard holds the gun in both hands, his arms shaking a little now. "Get away from him," he says, and his voice shakes a little, too. "Get away from him or I swear to God--"

Leo lets go of Frank, who slumps on the ground, and turns to face Gerard, hands held up. "Okay," he says slowly. "Okay, let's not do anything hasty."

Gerard keeps the gun trained on Leo, but can't help but look over at Frank. He's hunched over, forehead nearly on the ground, and Gerard can't see his face. "Frank, are you okay?" No answer. "Frank?"

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Leo reach for the gun tucked into his belt, and then the world breaks down into a series of short, sharply-defined moments. Gerard brings his gun up and squeezes the trigger. Leo reels backward and slumps to the ground. At the sound of the gunshot, Frank's head snaps up, and as he lurches to his feet time seems to start moving normally again.

Frank bends over Leo, rolling him over and checking the wound.

"Is he dead?" Gerard asks, still clutching the gun in a death grip. "Shit, Frankie, did I kill him?" He's not going to be sorry if he did, but he is probably going to be sick.

Frank shakes his head. "He's breathing," he croaks. He straightens up and turns toward Gerard, and Gerard's breath catches as he gets a good look at Frank's face--his nose is probably broken, and one of his eyes is already swelling shut. Frank doesn't seem to have any concern for himself. He wipes his face carelessly on the back of his sleeve and steps toward Gerard, putting one hand on top of his and pushing the gun down a little.

"Let me--" he says, trying to loosen Gerard's hold. Gerard makes a low noise and tightens his grip reflexively, and Frank moves closer, curling both hands around Gerard's. "It's okay, baby, ease up. I've got it."

Gerard's shoulders slump and he lets go, lets Frank take the gun. Frank palms it easily with one hand, reaches out to put his other arm around Gerard, who presses close, unmindful of the blood on Frank's shirt.

"Where's Vince?" Frank asks, raising his hand to Gerard's face and thumbing gently at his split lip. "If he touched you, I'm gonna fucking--"

Gerard shakes his head, tilting his chin up. "He got a little fresh," he says, trying for a light, airy tone and doing about as well as he can under the circumstances. "I took care of it."

"...You took care of it," Frank repeats, then smiles, the expression a little gruesome with his face all messed up. "Of course you did." He leans in, kissing the corner of Gerard's mouth, and whispers, "That's my girl."

Gerard lets out a hysterical little laugh, clutching at Frank. "Shit, we'd better get out of here," he says. "If anyone calls the cops, we can hide the gun, but I don't think we can hide two unconscious gangsters anyplace around here."




As they approach Gerard's doorway, there are voices from inside, and Frank halts, pushing Gerard behind him. He's got the gun Gerard shot Leo with in his hand, tucked inside his lapel, and the one Leo took from him earlier is stuck in his belt, covered by the back of his jacket. Gerard presses close at his back and they hold still, waiting.

"--no, listen--listen, damn it. I know you got a call about shots fired on Amity, because I'm on the scene. That's right, Detective Ray Toro, 6th precinct, badge number 783. Look it up. But first call off the dogs and let me get the situation under control. If I need backup I'll call for it."

Gerard lets out a breath. "I told Mikey to call him," he murmurs to Frank, and Frank relaxes a tiny amount.

When they step through the door, Toro whips around from where he's standing in the hall and he goes for his side holster. Frank holds up both hands instantly, letting his gun dangle loosely.

"I've got this and one in my belt," he says calmly. "I'm gonna put 'em on the ground, okay?"

Toro nods, looking slightly wary, and waits while Frank does as he said, then eases his hand away from his holster. "You want to tell me exactly what happened here?"

"We got a visit we didn't exactly expect," Frank says. "I assume you found Vince--baby, where exactly is Vince?"

"Bedroom," Gerard and Toro say simultaneously.

"Okay, so you found Vince in the bedroom," Frank goes on. "Leo's in the alley out back, and someone should probably go stop his bleeding at some point, but we left him alive."

Gerard braces his hands on Frank's back, looking at Toro over Frank's shoulder. "Leo took Frank out back to beat him up and Vince tried to assault me," he says. "Under the circumstances, I think I showed admirable restraint."

One corner of Toro's mouth quirks up slightly. "All right. I know those two are scum, you don't have to sell me. But even though I just bought you some time, I'm gonna have to call this in pretty soon, and even if it was self-defense I somehow doubt you two want to take a ride downtown. So--"

He breaks off and Gerard spins around at the sound of running feet in the hallway, and then Mikey careens into the doorway, breathing heavily, Grant just a few steps behind him. Before anyone else can say anything, Mikey shouts "Gerard!" and launches himself forward. Gerard catches him, stumbling back a step, and hisses "Mikey!"

Mikey looks up and freezes, finally seeming to notice that Toro's in the room. "I--" he starts haltingly.

"If you're trying to think of a good explanation for shouting 'Gerard' when you meant to shout 'Louise'," Toro says placidly. "There's, uh, really only one reason that comes to mind for that."

Mikey tightens his hold on Gerard. Frank steps in front of him again. Grant moves in close behind, laying a hand between Gerard's shoulder blades. Gerard lifts his chin and looks Toro straight in the eye.

"So what happens now?" he asks.

Toro looks at him for a second, and for the first time in their brief acquaintance, there's nothing apparent in his expression. Gerard has no idea what he might be thinking. Then, he shrugs.

"Well, like I was saying, I don't think you want to go downtown," Toro says as if he'd never been interrupted. "So, if I'm going to put in my report that, say, there were signs of a struggle but no sign of you two when I arrived, you'd better not still be here when I have to call this in."

Gerard stares at him for a moment, then huffs out a breath, closing his eyes. "Detective--"

"Seriously, I can't give you much time," Toro says. "Now if you'll all stop blocking the door and start using the time you have, I can go make sure Leo doesn't bleed to death. Even if he's scum, I don't need that on my conscience."

The four of them shuffle aside wordlessly, Gerard still surrounded by the other three, and Toro walks past them without another word.

"...So did I get punched harder than I thought, or did that just happen?" Frank wonders aloud.

"I'm fairly certain it did," Grant confirms.

Gerard shakes himself out of his stupor and pushes his way out of the knot of apparently unnecessary protection. "Okay, gift horse, mouth, etc. And you," he says, pushing at Mikey's shoulder. "I'm pretty sure I said don't come yourself, not 'come and bring Grant with you'."

"I called the Plaza to tell him we wouldn't make dinner," Mikey says innocently. "He insisted."

"That's putting it lightly," Grant murmurs. His hand's still on Gerard's back, and he eases away reluctantly when Frank hands Gerard a coat. "What do you need to do now and how can we help?"

"Car's packed and parked out front," Frank says, crouching down in the corner to pry up the loose floorboard. "Thank god we did that earlier. I've got the money and the IDs right here. I know we planned on having more time for goodbyes--"

"So let's drive somewhere that's not here and say them," Mikey suggests. "Grant and I probably shouldn't be here when Toro calls it in, either."

There's no time for a last check around the apartment--if Gerard forgot to pack anything, he's just going to have to leave it behind. He gets his coat on and grabs his handbag, and as they hurry out the door he pauses just once, taking one more look around. Years spent making this place into his home, his own little corner of the city, and in another moment he'll be gone forever.

"Gee." Frank touches his arm, and Gerard turns away, not looking back again.

As they pile into the car outside, Gerard sees Toro coming back around from the alley. One last, brief look passes between them, and then Toro vanishes into the building, going back upstairs to make a call, do his job, and Gerard looks at Frank.

"Let's go," he says.




Frank drives until the George Washington Bridge is in sight, then pulls over on a quiet side street. "All ashore that's going ashore," he says. "Next stop...someplace between New York and California, to be determined how far we get before we're too tired to drive any farther."

They get out to say their goodbyes, and Gerard hugs Grant first.

"Would you go make my apologies at Rouge tomorrow?" he asks. "You can just say we had to leave sooner than expected, you don't have to tell Steve and Ricky I had to knock out two gangsters." He pauses, then adds, "Wait, on second thought, tell everyone that, and feel free to make it five gangsters."

Grant laughs softly, and pulls back to cup Gerard's face in his hands. "Write to me when you can," he says, and leans in to brush his lips across Gerard's brow. "And take care of yourselves."

He steps back, and Gerard turns. Mikey and Frank are hugging, and then they pull apart and Frank moves to shake Grant's hand.

"Mikey," Gerard says, because he doesn't know what else to say. Mikey steps into his space and their arms go around each other.

"I'll find you, okay?" Mikey whispers, his voice choked with tears. "Whatever it takes, I'll get out there and find you."

Gerard nods, clinging to him tightly and not fighting his own tears. "I love you," he says. "And I'll see you soon."

They stay like that a few seconds longer, until Frank touches Gerard's back gently. "Baby, we've gotta go."

Gerard draws in a shuddery breath, kisses Mikey on the cheek and withdraws. Mikey wipes his eyes on his sleeve, sniffling, and Grant moves to stand next to him.

"I'll look after him," Grant says softly. "Go."

Frank and Gerard get back in the car, and Gerard turns as they drive away, watching Mikey and Grant until they're out of sight.

As they head for the bridge, Gerard slumps back in his seat, dropping his face into his hands. Everything that happened tonight--Vince and Leo, Toro's startling acceptance, their rushed goodbyes and the fact that this is it, that they're leaving, is crashing in on him. This isn't exactly the departure he imagined. He's wearing a ripped evening gown and his makeup's running down his face and his lip stings, and beside him, Frank's bruised and disheveled and still covered in dried blood, and they're hurtling down the highway with no real idea where they're going other than west.

And then Frank's hand settles on his shoulder, and when Gerard slumps sideways against him, Frank wraps him in a tight one-armed hug and kisses his hair.

"You okay?" Frank murmurs.

Gerard opens his eyes, looking steadily out at the road in front of them. "I will be."

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