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Part Two

Mikey doesn't question Gerard's telegram asking him to come as soon as he can (the only explanation Gerard gives is that there's something they should discuss face-to-face), just wires back that he can be in New York by noon the upcoming Friday.

"So, what's going on?" he asks once he's sitting at Gerard's kitchen table.

Gerard sets coffee down in front of Frank and Mikey, retrieves his own from the counter and sits down. "How much would you hate me if Frank and I moved to California?" he asks.

Mikey blinks. "Is this a hypothetical question, or...?"

Gerard tells him about the other night and their tentative plan to leave New York. Frank lets him take the lead, interjecting a comment of his own here and there, and Mikey listens patiently.

"So California seems like it might be a good plan, except for the part where it's really, really far away from Boston," Gerard finishes.

Mikey shrugs. "I'm taking my final exams at the end of May," he says calmly. "There's nothing that says I have to stay in Boston after that, as long as I have a way to find you in California."

Gerard just looks at him, a smile starting across his face. Mikey's reaction isn't that surprising, but it's touching enough to leave Gerard speechless.

"You mean that?" Frank asks, grinning.

"I've told Gerard before, the one thing I know for sure about my future is I want him in it," Mikey says. "A business degree's as good in California as anywhere else, and I'd rather move to Antarctica than see you two stay here if it's not safe anymore."

Gerard reaches for his hand, squeezing gently. "That makes me feel so much better about this."

"What are you gonna do out there?" Mikey asks.

Gerard shrugs. "Me? Probably the same thing I'm doing here. I haven't told anyone at work yet, but I know Ricky knows people in West Hollywood. Once he's done giving me grief about leaving, I can probably get a good reference out of him." He glances sidelong at Frank, putting a hand on his knee under the table. "You'll have to get some kind of legitimate job, I guess."

"Hey, I thought our agreement was if I ever quit bootlegging I'd be your manservant," Frank replies.

Gerard smiles. "Well, we did make that agreement when you hadn't ever seen me before my first cup in the morning. I wasn't sure you'd still be up for it."

"Still beats my current job," Frank points out, and then glances at his watch. "Speaking of which, I hate to run when Mikey just got here, but I'm supposed to be on my best behavior, so..."

Gerard's smile fades as Frank stands. "Am I gonna see you later?" he asks.

"If I can," Frank says, and reaches out to tilt Gerard's chin up. "Rather not make any promises than make 'em and then not show up."

"I get it," Gerard says, and turns his face up for a kiss as Frank leans down. "Be safe."

A little while later, he and Mikey are getting ready to go out to dinner when there's a knock on the door. Gerard's not expecting anyone, so he opens the door a little warily, keeping the chain on, and relaxes when he sees it's Carl, the handyman.

"Hey, Carl, is something wrong? Please don't tell me my tub's been leaking into 2C again."

"Nothing like that, Miss Rush," Carl says. "I just thought you should know, there was a guy here a little while ago asking about you."

Gerard's stomach drops instantly. "What?"

"He said he was a police officer," Carl said. "Didn't ask too much, just described you and that young man who's here with you sometimes, and asked if you live here. I figured it couldn't hurt to tell him that much, but I also figured it couldn't hurt to give you a head's-up."

Gerard bites his lip. "I appreciate it. Was there anything else he wanted to know?"

"No--well, not about you," Carl says. "He asked if there was a good place around here to get a cup of coffee, so I sent him to the Nite Owl."

Gerard nods. "Okay. Thanks for letting me know, Carl."

Carl hesitates, looking like he wants to say something else but isn't sure if he should. "'Course, it's not really any of my business," he says after a moment, "But I'd hate to think you were in any kind of trouble."

Gerard smiles. "Don't worry about me, I'll be all right," he says, and it's partly a way of telling Carl that he's right, it's not his business, but also a way of saying he appreciates the concern. "Thanks, Carl. Really."

Carl nods. "No problem. You take care, Ms. Rush."

Gerard keeps a pleasant smile on his face until the door closes, then drops it as he turns to face Mikey. "We've got a problem."

Sure enough, when they get down to the Nite Owl, one of the booths next to the plate-glass window is occupied by a tall guy in a neat, nondescript suit with slicked-back hair, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a newspaper.

"Wait for me out here, okay?" Gerard asks Mikey.

"If it looks like you're in trouble, I'm coming in," Mikey replies, and Gerard shoots him a quick, grateful smile before stepping inside.

Toro looks up when the door opens, and when he sees Gerard he folds his newspaper and puts it aside. Gerard's very careful not to let anything show in his face or his body language. He walks across the room and slides into the other side of Detective Toro's booth like he knows him, like they'd made plans to meet here, and smiles pleasantly.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he asks in a quiet, friendly tone.

Toro takes a casual sip of his coffee, responding in kind. "I've had a tail on Vince and Leo for a while now," he informs Gerard. "When they spent so long parked outside your building the other night, I got a little curious. Can I get you anything?"

"No thanks, I can't stay long. If you've got a tail on those two, why are you lurking on my block?" Gerard asks, still smiling. "Go ruin their Friday evening."

"I have a feeling it would ruin a lot of Friday evenings for you if Frank ended up in jail," Toro points out. "Or worse, which is a distinct possibility."

Gerard's careful smile slips, so he ducks his head, adjusting his gloves a little. "Why are you talking to me about this? I do my best to stay out of all that, I don't need mob goons and you making it harder for me."

"You were there last time I talked to Frank," Toro points out. "And you probably know better than me how stubborn he is. I was hoping you might be a little more--"

"--easily intimidated?" Gerard finishes for him.

"I was gonna go with 'open to persuasion'," Toro says.

"As I understand it, that's the polite way of referring to intimidation," Gerard says smoothly, glancing up to meet Toro's eyes. "So you shake me up, and then I run to my boyfriend and tell him he has to cooperate, is that it? You don't know me at all, Detective."

Toro looks at him calmly, then gives an acquiescing nod. "Maybe not. But I know quite a bit about Frank. For one thing, I know he only started going by Frank Genarro about a year and a half ago, and before then he was Frank Iero. I know Frank Iero has a rap sheet full of misdemeanors--petty theft, breaking windows with rocks, that sort of thing--but nothing serious until he got into bootlegging, and nothing that involved violence against another person until the night of his arrest, and I've got witness statements saying that was provoked."

A waitress heads in their direction with a pot of coffee, and Toro stops talking to give her a friendly smile as she refills his cup. Gerard gives a polite 'no thank you' when she asks if he wants anything, and as the waitress moves away, Toro looks back at Gerard.

"Now, Frank Genarro's never been charged with anything, so for him I've just got a lot of circumstantial evidence and speculation. But the pattern's similar--a year of involvement in bootlegging but no violent crimes, and then in the last six months I've got him connected to extortion, vandalism, several assaults, and at least one instance of arson."

Gerard swallows hard, looking down and to the side. He thinks about all the times Frank's showed up late or not at all, all the times he hasn't wanted to say where he's been or what he was doing, all the times he's gotten dismissive or downright angry when Gerard tried to get him to talk about it.

"You know what that pattern says to me?" Toro goes on. "It says he's not a bad guy--not a saint, sure, but I've been doing this long enough to know who's a lowlife who gets off on hurting people and who's a basically decent person mixed up in some bad stuff. It seems pretty clear to me that Frank's the latter. And those are the kind of people I like to help, if I can."

"Frank doesn't think you can help us," Gerard whispers, staring determinedly at the tabletop.

"And he could be right," Toro concedes. "I wasn't born yesterday, I know there are dirty cops out there. But some of us still care about justice. The longer Frank stays mixed up with these people, the deeper he'll dig himself, and the more danger you'll both be in. I can't give you a full guarantee, that's true, but if Frank helps me out I'll do everything in my power to return the favor, and that's got to be better than no guarantee at all."

Gerard glances back up at him, and Toro looks sincere. It's like a scene in a movie, the honest, friendly cop offering help to the damsel in distress. Only Gerard knows at least one half that equation is a lie, and suspects Toro wouldn't be so friendly and helpful if he also knew it.

"I have to go," he says, standing. "I shouldn't be talking to you."

Toro grabs for his wrist. "Wait--"

Gerard jerks away, more forcefully than he means to. "Please, Detective."

Toro backs off, looking contrite. "I'm sorry, ma'am. Just..." He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a little white card with a phone number written on it, holding it out. "In case you change your mind. Just think it over. Please."

Gerard doesn't reply, doesn't look at his face again, but he does take the card before hurrying out of the diner.

Gerard's hesitant to tell Frank about Toro the next day, knowing he'll react badly, but he needs to know. Frank actually takes it pretty well, which means he only stomps around Gerard's living room swearing for a few minutes.

"So what do we do?" Gerard asks once Frank calms down a little.

"You mean aside from have the entire mob and the NYPD over for cocktails, since they seem determined to invite themselves over anyway?" Frank asks, and shrugs helplessly. "If Toro keeps sticking his nose in he could cause us trouble--if anyone finds out he's approached me, it won't matter that I haven't told him anything. I don't know how to get him to back off, though. I'd need some kind of leverage."

"Is there information you could give him that would be useful?" Mikey asks.

Frank nods. "Well, yeah--not enough to take down anyone really important, but with what I could tell him, he could bust some of their operations, probably put some low-level guys away for a stretch. But if I tell him anything and it gets back to me, I'm fucked."

"What if he agreed not to act on anything you gave him until you left town?" Mikey suggests. "Look, if he was being honest with Gerard, he thinks of you as a decent guy, he wants to help you out, and he appreciates the situation you're in. If you make some kind of deal with him, tell him you want to get out and go straight and offer the information in exchange for him not messing with that...do you think he'd go for it?"

Frank looks at him speculatively for a moment, then shakes his head. "Maybe. It could be that Toro's just a real good actor, but my gut says he actually is the good cop he claims to be. I think he'd go along with that. But I'd still have to talk to him again to work the deal out."

"I could talk to him," Mikey says.

Gerard looks over at him. "What?"

"Nobody knows me," Mikey says. "I wasn't here when they paid you a visit, and as far as we know they haven't been back here, right?"

"As far as we know," Frank says. "That's still chancy."

Mikey shrugs. "There's still a better chance of me being able to talk to Toro without anyone linking it back to you than there is if you or Gerard do it. I can set up a meeting with him and try to negotiate."

Gerard shakes his head. "Mikey, I don't want you to--"

"Gee, I want to do this," Mikey says firmly. "Let me help you."

Gerard looks uncertainly at Frank, who shrugs. "It might be worth a shot."

Gerard sighs, spreading his hands. "I still don't like it, but I guess I'm outvoted."

The plan they work out is for Mikey to call Toro from a phone booth, arrange to meet somewhere that's not near Gerard's apartment, and offer him the deal. Gerard realizes it's going to take some time--if Toro's not at his desk when Mikey calls, Mikey's going to have to wait and try again, then they need to figure out where to meet and then there's the meeting itself--but every hour Mikey's gone, his nerves ratchet up another notch.

Gerard's getting ready to leave for work when the phone rings; he rushes into the hall and snatches the receiver off the hook. "Hello?"

"Hey." It's Mikey, sounding pretty calm. "It's done."

Gerard relaxes a little. "How'd it go?"

"Okay, but let's not talk over the phone," Mikey says. "I'm closer to Rouge than your place, should I just meet you there?"

"All right," Gerard says. "Be careful getting there. I'll see you soon."

The back corner tables at Rouge are good for talking. They're far enough away from the band to have a conversation, but the room's still loud enough to make eavesdropping difficult, and when there's a performer onstage, anyone in the back can be pretty sure no one in the room is paying attention to them.

Gerard can think of worse places to discuss the tentative deal his brother made with the police to snitch on his boyfriend's mob contacts.

"That seemed to go pretty well," Mikey says as soon as he sits down. "I guess I haven't spent four years in business school without learning how to negotiate."

"Did Toro go for it?" Frank asks.

"He says your information better be good if he's gonna stick his neck out," Mikey says. "But he's on board with the idea. I told him I'd contact him again in a few days to arrange how and when he gets it."

Frank nods approvingly, clapping Mikey on the shoulder. "All right. To be honest, I didn't expect it to work out nearly that well."

Mikey shrugs. "He's got a crush on Gerard. I think that helps."

"Excuse me?" Gerard asks, at the same time Frank asks, "He what?"

Mikey has the good grace to look abashed as he goes on. "I may have harped a little on how it's not just Frank who'll be in trouble if the deal goes bad, and how he has to let Frank go because otherwise who's gonna look after Louise, and, well, you get the picture. Oh, by the way, Gee, as far as he knows I'm your cousin. Anyway, when I put it like that he came around pretty quick. Trust me, I don't think he's gonna do anything he thinks might put you in danger."

Gerard sighs, shaking his head. "I don't believe you. But, okay, if that makes this work he can crush on me all he wants."

"As long as that's all he does," Frank mutters ominously.

"Well, that's one of our problems hopefully solved," Gerard says. "What's next? If we're actually going to pull this off, what do we need to do?"

Frank takes a sip of his drink and then swirls the liquid around in the glass, looking down at it. "As far as Toro goes, I guess the best thing is if I write down everything I have that he could use, and arrange a drop-off--leave it taped under a certain park bench at a certain time, something like that. As far as getting out of town goes, there's basically three things we need--money, fake IDs, and a car. I can take care of the last two easily enough, but money's a problem. Oddly enough, my cut from everything I'm involved in seems to be getting smaller lately."

"I've got a couple hundred, but that's all my savings," Gerard says. He leans forward, bracing his elbows on the table, and adds, "I might have a way to get more, though."

"Yeah?" Frank prompts, eyebrows raised.

"When I ran away from home," Gerard goes on. "I got help from a guy named Grant--Mikey, I told you about him in my letters, remember?" Mikey nods. "He was this wealthy European guy traveling in the States, and there's a fair chance I might have died in a ditch somewhere if he hadn't helped me out."

"Well, if I ever meet him, I'll buy him a drink for that," Frank says. "But what's that got to do with us now?"

"We've kept in touch over the years," Gerard says. "And next week he's actually going to be in New York for the first time since then, so we were planning to get together and catch up." He glances at Frank, meeting his curious eyes. "And he's always told me that if I ever need his help, I should ask for it."

Frank's eyebrows go up slightly. "And you think he'd be willing to help us with this?"

Gerard looks down, tracing a pattern in the wood tabletop with his fingertip. There's a lot of history here that Frank doesn't know, and Gerard's not unwilling to tell him, he's just not sure where to start.

"I think so," he says softly. "Or at least, I don't think he'd be bothered by my asking."

"Sounds like it's worth a shot," Mikey says.

"Yeah," Frank agrees, and leans over to kiss Gerard's cheek. "Good thinking, baby."

That's the last word on the subject until later that night, when they're back at the apartment. Gerard expects Frank to see them home and then go back to his place--he hasn't been staying over much lately--but as Mikey starts making up the couch, Frank trails Gerard down the hall to the bedroom.

Gerard glances over his shoulder, smiling curiously. "Hey. You know my walls are pretty thin, right?"

Frank shakes his head. "Now who's just in it for the sex?" He moves in close behind Gerard, sliding an arm around his waist and kissing his shoulder. "I feel like lately we're always either looking over our shoulders or busy making plans. So we're gonna shut the door and get in bed and not do either of those things for awhile, and aside from that, I don't really care what we do."

Gerard reaches back to cup Frank's cheek, holding him where he is. "You're such a romantic."

Frank helps him with his dress, and Gerard sits down at the vanity to take off his shoes and stockings. In the mirror, he can see Frank slipping out of his jacket and unbuttoning his vest and shirt. They don't spend a lot of nights like this, quiet and domestic instead of passionate. Gerard could get used to it. He hopes he has time to get used to it, he thinks as he picks up his hairbrush.

"So, if you don't want to talk about this, we don't have to," Frank says, sitting on the edge of the bed to remove his shoes. "But I can't help but wonder--"

"If the wealthy European man I knew before we reconnected and am planning to ask for money is an old boyfriend?" Gerard finishes for him. He figured Frank was going to have some questions about that.

Frank looks up at him, smiling crookedly. "Just curious. I like to know a little something about people that I--or my boyfriend--might be accepting money from."

"I get it," Gerard finishes brushing his hair out, then stands and walks over to the bed. He folds back the covers and sits, leaning against the headboard and tucking his legs under himself. "Grant's not exactly what I'd call an old boyfriend," he says after a moment's thought. "Although, in the interest of full disclosure, he was the first guy I ever slept with."

Frank pauses in the middle of taking off his pants. "When you ran away? You were seventeen!"

Gerard raises an eyebrow. "Did you, or did you not, tell me you lost your virginity at sixteen in the back of a car?"

"Yeah, to someone who was also sixteen, not to a wealthy European man while I was a teenage runaway in danger of dying in a ditch," Frank protests. His righteous indignation on Gerard's past self's behalf is sort of annoying and endearing at the same time. Frank in a nutshell. He finishes undressing and sits on the edge of the bed facing Gerard, brow furrowed. "I mean...did he take advantage of you? Was there advantage-taking?"

Gerard sighs and rolls his eyes. "If you must know, he was a perfect gentleman right up to the point where I propositioned him. There was no advantage-taking. I got a ride into the city, a place to sleep, and some of the best advice anyone's ever given me, and Grant got my virginity. Frankly, I think I got the better end of the deal."

"Okay," Frank says, but he doesn't seem totally convinced. Gerard sighs again and holds out his hands, and Frank scoots up on the bed until he can take hold of them.

"Look, baby," Gerard starts. "We've never talked very much about everything that happened to me before we met again, and that's fine by me because there's some things I'd just as soon you never know about. I did some stuff that...I'm not gonna say I regret it, because it was what I had to do to survive, but I don't exactly want to sit around reminiscing about it."

Frank squeezes his hands. "You don't have to."

"What happened between Grant and me isn't one of those things," Gerard goes on. "He was good for me. And...kind of important." He ducks his head, smiling a little. "We only spent one night together, but it was...I don't even know how to put it in words, but it was what I needed then. You know, he was the first person to ever tell me I was beautiful?"

He glances up, and there's an odd look on Frank's face for a moment. Then Frank smiles and nods. "Okay," he says again.

Gerard's brow furrows slightly. "Is that an 'okay' okay or a 'I still have a problem but I don't want to talk about it anymore' okay?"

Frank shuffles around on the bed until he's leaning against the headboard next to Gerard, and tucks an arm around him. "Actually? It's an 'I always figured I probably wasn't your first love, the way you were mine, but now the guy who was is showing up again and I'm not gonna make a thing out of it but I may need a little time to get used to the idea' okay."

Gerard smiles, leaning over and tucking his head against Frank's shoulder. "I've never thought about it in those terms before, but yeah, I guess he was." He presses a kiss to Frank's shoulder and adds, "But for the record, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Grant's been a good long-distance friend over the years, but friends is all we are now."

Frank kisses his hair. "And for the record, he wasn't the first person to think you were beautiful. He just beat me to saying it out loud. And had a definite advantage in not being twelve."

Gerard laughs. "He had that going for him, yeah." He tilts his head up, reaching to pull Frank down for a lingering kiss. "I love you," he whispers when they break apart. "Grant's my past. You're my present, and you better stick around to be my future."

"That's the plan," Frank replies, and kisses him again.

The kiss lasts for a long moment, until Gerard pulls back and rests his head on Frank's chest. Frank strokes his hair with one hand, his other arm curled around Gerard's waist, holding him close.

"Tell me more about him?" Frank asks softly. "I mean, you don't have to. But if what happened was that important to you, I'd like to hear about it, if you'd like to share it."

Gerard doesn't answer right away, lying quietly in Frank's arms. "He picked me up on the road not too far from home," he begins eventually. "I'd been walking a couple of hours by then, and I didn't know if I should trust him. But I was so tired, and there was just something about him that felt all right to me..."

Gerard takes one last drag on his cigarette, looking out over Fifth Avenue. Grant said he didn't mind Gerard smoking in the room, but after talking for over an hour he felt like he could use a little time to himself, so he went out to the balcony.

It's taken two cigarettes for him to work up his nerve out here, but he thinks he's got it. Now he needs to go through with this before he loses it. He crushes the cigarette out on the railing, takes a deep breath, and goes back inside.

Grant's still sitting on the sofa, writing in a notebook. He looks up when Gerard comes in, smiling.

"There you are. Everything all right?"

"Yeah," Gerard says, leaning against the wall by the balcony door. "I've been thinking about something."

Grant raises his eyebrows. "Oh?"

"I think we should sleep together before you leave," Gerard tells him.

Grant blinks. "I'm sorry?"

It's not quite the response Gerard was hoping for, but at least he has Grant's attention. He leans against the wall, arms tucked behind his back, doing his best to slouch artfully. He tries to remember what he's seen in the movies, only it's usually girls doing the whole wide-eyed coquette thing in the movies, and they tend to have better natural assets than he does. "I think we should sleep together," he repeats.

Grant stares at him for a moment, then stands, closing his notebook and walking over to put it back in his travel bag before he looks back at Gerard. "I thought we settled that."

Gerard pushes off from the wall and walks toward Grant, lifting one shoulder in a shrug. "Maybe we did and maybe we didn't. You did say you thought I was handsome."

Grant watches him as he approaches, and there's something in his dark eyes that raises the hairs on the back of Gerard's neck and makes him sure he's not wrong about this.

"I also said I don't expect anything of you, and I meant it," he says evenly. "If I've said or done anything to make you doubt my sincerity, I apologize."

"You haven't," Gerard assures him, moving closer. "You've been a perfect gentleman, and I know that if I didn't say anything you'd go on being a perfect gentleman. But maybe I don't want you to be."

"You're just a boy," Grant says, which isn't exactly a refusal.

Gerard keeps moving forward until he's right in Grant's space, looking up at him. "You asked how you can help me," he says softly. "
I meant it when I said I'll do what I have to do to make it here, and if that means selling myself, fine. I'm not too scared or too proud for it. But I thought maybe...if I could make sure my first time is good--and I think it would be good, with you--then if it's bad later, that won't matter so much. You know?"

Grant just stares at him, his expression hard to read, and after a moment Gerard drops his eyes, pulling in on himself a little. "Is that stupid? It's stupid, isn't it. I'll--"

He starts to turn away, only to find Grant's hand on his face, cupping his cheek. "No," Grant says softly. "No, it's not stupid at all."

He leans down and kisses Gerard's forehead, and Gerard lets out a little sigh and then tilts his head up, hoping Grant won't pull back--and he doesn't. Their mouths meet, and Gerard closes his eyes, leaning into it.

It's the first time he's ever kissed a man, and the second time he's kissed anyone at all. The first was a year and a half ago, when Katie Bowen let him kiss her and touch her breasts through her blouse in the back row of a dark movie theater. It had been nice--she was soft and round in all the right ways and she smelled good--but it had mostly been an experiment, to see how he'd like it. And that had been his answer: it was nice. Just nice.

This is much more than nice, partly because Grant seems to know a lot more about kissing than Katie Bowen did. He tilts his head a little, changing the angle of the kiss, and traces Gerard's bottom lip with his tongue, and Gerard opens his mouth automatically, letting him in. He feels warm all over, too warm for the room, and he's got butterflies in his stomach and goosebumps on his arms and he finally, for the first time ever, gets why people make such a big deal over kissing.

Grant's framing his face with both hands now, stroking over Gerard's cheekbones with his thumbs, and Gerard reaches up and puts his hands on Grant's shoulders, pushing gently. When they stumble back a few steps, Grant's legs hit the sofa and he sinks back onto it. Gerard climbs up after him, his knees on either side of Grant's, and kisses him again as Grant's arms go around his waist. He lets one hand trail down Grant's chest to his stomach, and then--thinking about what he does when he touches himself, what he knows feels good--reaches between his legs.

Grant's hard already, and he draws in a sharp breath and surges up against Gerard's hand. Gerard feels a little thrill and a sudden, heady sense of power--he's doing this, he can make Grant react that way, make him want more.

"Is that good?" he whispers, putting his mouth against the shell of Grant's ear. "Is that--"

"It's perfect," Grant tells him, low and rough. "You're perfect."

He slides a hand into Gerard's hair, tugging his head to the side, and kisses Gerard's neck, scraping his teeth over the skin gently. Gerard gasps, swaying against him, and moves his hand, cupping Grant through his pants.

"You can do anything you want to me," he says breathlessly. "Anything--just show me, tell me what to do--"

Grant makes a noise that's almost a growl and gathers Gerard against him, standing with a little effort. Gerard squeaks in surprise and holds on, wrapping his arms around Grant's neck and his legs around Grant's waist. Four steps across the room and Grant's setting him down on the bed, disengaging himself and reaching for the buttons on Gerard's shirt. Gerard lies there, half-dazed by how fast this is happening, only moving when he has to lift up in order to let Grant take something off. Once Gerard's naked, Grant stands back and strips his own clothes off even more quickly, and Gerard props himself up on his elbows and watches him with eager, hungry eyes.

Grant gets onto the bed, straddling him, and Gerard stretches up to meet him for another kiss, twining his arms around Grant's neck.

"What do you--what should I--" He keeps talking in half-formed sentences, not sure what he's trying to ask, what he wants. His mind is whirling with everything he's ever heard about sex, a lot of which he only half understands, and all he knows for sure is that he wants to do it right, wants it to be good.

Grant stops him with a kiss, stroking Gerard's hair back from his face. "Stop thinking so much," he says when he pulls back. "Just do what feels right."

He settles on top of Gerard, bracing his elbows on the bed and pressing down with his hips, and their cocks slide against each other, smooth and hard and with just enough friction. Gerard tosses his head back with a strangled cry, caught off-guard by how good it feels.

"We're built for this," Grant's saying in his ear, moving against him. "The human body's designed for pleasure. It knows what to do even when your mind doesn't." He puts a hand on Gerard's hip, steering him into a steady, fast rhythm. "All you need to do is trust it, and learn to read the signals."

Gerard lets Grant guide him, rocking up to meet his thrusts. Grant's mouth trails down the side of his neck, and Gerard tilts his head back, eyes fluttering closed. He's dizzy and breathless, overwhelmed. He tries to listen to Grant and stop thinking so much, but he's wound up like a bowstring and he can't stop trying to memorize every detail of the experience--the firm weight of Grant above him, the way Grant's teeth on his neck send tremors up and down his spine, the hard, smooth heat of Grant's cock sliding against his.

It's over before Gerard's ready, everything building up inside of him in a hot rush. He arches up against Grant, clutching at his shoulders, and comes with a loud, sharp moan, shuddering. Grant keeps going a little longer, rocking against him, and lets out a muffled groan against Gerard's shoulder when he comes. He stays braced above Gerard a few moments, then eases down on the bed beside him, one arm slung across Gerard's chest.

Gerard stares up at the ceiling, wrung out and panting for breath. He never put much stock in schoolyard talk about how having sex changes you, but he does feel different, and vaguely triumphant.

Grant stirs, touching Gerard's cheek and studying his face. "All right?" he asks gently.

"I'm fine," Gerard says, smiling. He rolls onto his side, leaning over to kiss Grant. "I'm better than fine."

Gerard's hair falls in his face and Grant tucks it back behind his ear, kissing his temple. "I'm glad."

Gerard stretches lazily and then settles back down on the bed, rubbing his cheek against the cool, smooth sheets. He feels better than he has in a long time, all the tension drained out of his body. "I'm just glad I was right about you wanting me. It would have been pretty embarrassing if you'd turned me down after I threw myself at you like that."

Grant looks almost amused. "Did you think there was any chance of that?" he asks.

Gerard shrugs, tracing invisible patterns in the sheets with one hand. "I don't know, it's not like I've ever done this before."

Grant takes hold of Gerard's hand and brings it to his mouth, brushing his lips over Gerard's knuckles. "I wanted you from the moment you got into my car," he says. "Your age was the only reason I hesitated at all."

Gerard feels himself blush, a pleased smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Honestly?"

Grant looks at him for a moment, then sits up and motions for Gerard to do the same. "Come here," he says softly.

There's a big, gilt-edged mirror on the wall across from the bed, and Grant turns Gerard toward it, hands on his shoulders. "Look," he whispers, tucking a hand under Gerard's chin to tilt his face up. "Look how beautiful you are."

"Do you really think so?" Gerard asks breathlessly. He does think he looks pretty right now--lips parted, cheeks flushed, leaning back against Grant's chest--but he doesn't think it would be hard for anyone to look pretty in a moment like this. It's like when he wears stockings or puts makeup on; it's the window dressing that's beautiful, not him. Not really.

"I think you're incredible," Grant tells him. "I think people should be kneeling at your feet and bringing you offerings. I mean it," he says when Gerard gives a nervous laugh. "And I want you to remember this, because the world is full of small-minded people who are going to try to make you feel ugly, try to hurt you and drag you down into the mud with them. And when that happens, I want you to remember that you're beautiful, and special, and you deserve every good thing life has to offer." He pauses, meeting Gerard's eyes in the mirror. "All right?"

Gerard draws in a deep breath that hitches on a sob and twists around, burying his face in the curve of Grant's neck. His shoulders are shaking and tears are welling up in his eyes, and it's not just because of what Grant just said. It's everything. He hasn't let himself cry since the fight with his dad, so he guesses it's overdue.

Grant's arms wrap around him tightly, Grant's lips press against the crown of his head. Gerard tries to pull himself together, to stammer out an apology for losing it like this, but Grant just shushes him gently.

"Just let it out," he murmurs against Gerard's hair. "It'll be all right. Let it out."

Gerard cries himself out against Grant's shoulder, letting Grant ease him back down on the bed. Grant keeps murmuring to him, his voice low and soothing, and Gerard curls up in his arms and closes his eyes, drawing in deep, shuddery breaths.

He dozes off like that for a while, and wakes up still tucked against Grant's chest, no idea how long he's been out. Grant's awake, one hand carding absentmindedly through Gerard's hair, and when Gerard stirs he cranes his neck to look at him.

"Hey," Grant says softly, and rubs his thumb over Gerard's cheek, wiping away the last traces of his tears. "Feeling better?"

"Yeah," Gerard says, lifting himself up on one elbow and scrubbing a hand across his face. "Yeah, a lot. How long was I asleep?"

"Just about an hour," Grant tells him. "If you want to go back to sleep, I can turn the lights out."

"No, it's okay," Gerard says. "I'm not really that tired." That's a lie and Grant can probably tell, but he doesn't want to sleep. If he goes to sleep, tonight ends and tomorrow comes, and tomorrow means a steamer back to Europe for Grant and who-knows-what for Gerard.

He leans in and kisses Grant, open-mouthed and eager, falling back on the bed when Grant leans over him. Grant deepens the kiss, sliding one hand down from Gerard's neck to his chest, circling his nipples lightly, teasingly. Gerard's hard almost at once, pushing up into the touch insistently.

"I want you," he gasps when the kiss breaks. "I want--"

"What?" Grant coaxes gently, his fingers skimming down Gerard's ribcage. "Tell me."

Gerard squirms when Grant brushes a ticklish spot, whimpers into Grant's mouth when they kiss again. "I don't know, just...you. Your hands--your mouth--show me something," he finally says, as close to decisive as he can get. "Something I don't know how to do yet. Something good."

Grant sits up and looks down at him for a moment, thinking. Then he nods, with a faint smile. "All right."

He leans down, kissing Gerard lightly. Before Gerard can deepen it, Grant's mouth is gone, following the line of his throat down to his collarbone, and further.

Gerard closes his eyes, sighing in pleasure as Grant kisses a path down to his stomach, and then his eyes fly open and he arches off the bed with a startled cry when he feels Grant's mouth on his cock. Grant rides the motion out, sliding his hands around to the back of Gerard's thighs to lift him off the bed even more, take him deeper, and Gerard moans brokenly as Grant swallows around him and does...
something with his tongue.

Gerard writhes on the bed, clenching fistfuls of the sheets, and Grant doesn't let up for a second, and it's too fast and too hot and too much and fucking
perfect. Gerard's teetering on the edge in what feels like a minute flat; he doesn't know if it's okay to come in Grant's mouth or not, but when he pushes feebly at his shoulder Grant only pulls off halfway, and when Gerard shudders and breaks apart he swallows steadily, only pulling back to wipe his mouth when Gerard goes still.

Gerard lies there panting, feeling like every muscle in his body's been turned to jelly. It's all he can do to raise his hands to Grant's face when Grant moves back up the bed to kiss him. His mouth is salty and a little bitter, and a few little aftershocks run through Gerard as he realizes he's tasting himself there.

"Can I do that to you?" is the first thing he asks when he can speak again. Grant's half-hard against his thigh, and Gerard doesn't think he'll need much coaxing.

Grant draws back, bracing himself on one elbow and stroking Gerard's hair back from his forehead. "You don't have to," he says gently.

"I want to try it," Gerard tells him eagerly, putting his hand on Grant's chest and leaning up to mouth at his jaw. "I want to try everything."

Grant laughs softly, threading his hand into Gerard's hair. "We'd need a lot more than one night for everything. Or at least, I would--I can vaguely remember being seventeen, but I haven't got quite that much stamina anymore."

"Okay, maybe not
everything," Gerard concedes. He doesn't even know what 'everything' is, after all, although the thought of staying holed up in this room for days on end while Grant teaches him makes his cock twitch, less than five minutes after coming his brains out. He kisses Grant's neck, nips at his throat lightly, letting his hand trail downward. "But this? Can I?"

One of Grant's hands curls around the back of Gerard's neck, the other splayed on his hip. "You don't honestly think I could say no to you right now, do you?"

Gerard moves down on the bed, smiling and tucking his hair behind his ear. He settles between Grant's legs, hands bracketing his hips. Grant's cock is right in front of him now, big and hard and flushed dark with blood, and Gerard's suddenly unsure of what to do. The basic idea is pretty straightforward, but he wonders for a moment what the best way to go about it is, and then realizes Grant's probably not expecting too much finesse from him on his first try.

He leans forward and takes the head of Grant's cock in his mouth, tracing the shape of it with his tongue. Grant lets out a little moan and his hips twitch upward, and Gerard feels that same little thrill of power he felt earlier. He slides down further, opening his mouth wider, and feels Grant's hand on his face, tracing the curve of his cheek and then sliding into his hair.

"You don't have to take too much," Grant tells him softly. "Use your hand." And of course, once he's said that it seems perfectly obvious for Gerard to curl his hand around the base of Grant's cock, covering what his mouth can't. "That's it," Grant says encouragingly, petting his hair.

Once Gerard's past the first hurdle, so to speak, it seems easier to figure things out, to remember to only breathe through his nose and use his tongue more, trying to mimic some of the things Grant did to him. Grant holds still for the most part, just his hips twitching now and then and his hands sliding carefully through Gerard's hair as he whispers encouragement.

Grant's breath starts coming fast and uneven, and he tugs on Gerard's hair gently. Gerard pulls off, momentarily confused, wondering if he's done something wrong, but when Grant gasps out "Just--your hand--", he slides his fist up and down the length of Grant's cock, fast and messy and slick with spit. When Grant comes, arching his back and crying out, a little of it splashes on Gerard's lower lip and chin, and without even thinking about it he wipes his face and then licks his hand clean.

Grant sits up, tugging at Gerard's shoulder to pull him up as well, and kisses him deeply, cupping his face in both hands and licking into his mouth. Gerard curls his hands around Grant's wrists, leaning into the kiss. His lips feel raw and his jaw aches a little, but it's not too bad, and satisfying, in a way.

"Was that all right?" he asks after a moment, drawing back.

Grant kisses the corner of his mouth, his cheek, his brow. "Much better than that," he says softly. "You're a quick study."

They sink back down on the bed together, kissing lazily, Gerard tucked into the curve of Grant's arm. After a few minutes, Grant reaches down to tug the covers up around them, and then settles down again, pulling Gerard back against him. Gerard rests his head on Grant's shoulder, feeling Grant's fingers slip through his hair gently, and lets his eyes fall closed.

Grant's hand on Gerard's shoulder wakes him. He starts at the sensation of being in an unfamiliar place before he remembers the night before, and then he relaxes, smiling into the pillow for a moment before he rolls over and sits up.

There's full daylight streaming through the windows, and Grant is fully dressed, folding up his clothes from last night and putting them in his suitcase.

"I would have let you sleep longer," he tells Gerard. "But if you want breakfast, it would probably be best if you're not still in bed when it gets here."

"...Right." Gerard pushes back the covers and gets out of bed, finds his own suitcase. "I'll go get dressed."

Grant stops him as he passes, one hand on his shoulder, the other reaching to tilt Gerard's chin up. "All right?" he asks softly. "Last night--"

"Last night was perfect," Gerard says sincerely, and stretches up on his toes to kiss Grant. "Thank you."

Getting dressed in the bathroom, he notices the marks on his neck and collarbone. He reaches up to touch one of them, gasping a little at the jolt of pleasure-pain when he presses down. He couldn't see, with Grant already dressed, if he left any marks on him or not. He sort of hopes he did.

There's a room service cart in the room when he comes back out, and Grant's finished packing, his suitcase standing by the door. Gerard gathers his clothes from last night and shoves them in his own suitcase carelessly. "When do you have to check out?" he asks.

"An hour," Grant says, and beckons Gerard toward the sofa. "Come and sit down, have something to eat."

They eat sitting side-by-side on the sofa, not talking much. Gerard keeps wanting to say something, to talk while he still can before he's off on his own without Grant's understanding, but he doesn't know what to say.

After a while, Grant turns to face him. "I know I keep saying this, but I want to be clear--you don't owe me anything, and I don't expect anything from you."

"I know," Gerard says. Grant made that pretty clear the day before, but it seems like he's leading into something else, not just restating it.

"What if I asked you to come with me?" Grant asks. "To come back to Scotland with me? Would you?"

Gerard stares at him, taken up short by the offer. It takes him a few moments to find an answer, and when he does, he surprises himself.

"No. Or, well, I might--I know I'd be tempted--but I think if I did I'd end up regretting it."

Grant looks a little disappointed, but he nods steadily. "All right."

Gerard reaches for his hand, wanting to explain even though Grant didn't ask him to. "I don't want you to think--Grant, it means
so much to me that you'd even offer. And you've been so good to me, and last night was amazing, but I'm seventeen, and I'm just figuring everything out, and if I just latch on like that to the first person I've ever been with, it's just...it'd be too much."

Grant lifts his free hand and tucks Gerard's hair behind his ear. "We wouldn't have to be anything other than friends. It could be as much or as little as you want."

"I don't
know what I want, though, that's the thing," Gerard tells him. "Even if you never asked me for anything, I think I'd be too afraid to disappoint you by not giving you what you want, even if it's not right for me. And even if we could just be friends, I feel like--and I might end up really, really regretting this--but I feel like I need to make my way on my own. Even if it's just to find out whether or not I can."

Grant smiles faintly, cupping Gerard's face, rubbing his thumb along Gerard's cheekbone. "I understand. Even though I'd like very much to take care of you."

"I'm sorry," Gerard says. "It really does mean a lot--"

"And I really did mean it when I said it's all right," Grant tells him. He pulls Gerard close, curling a hand around the back of his neck and kissing his forehead.

Gerard leans against him, pressing his face into Grant's shoulder and sliding his arms around Grant's waist. "I am going to miss you, though."

"Nonsense," Grant murmurs into his hair. "In no time at all, you'll have some handsome young New Yorker wrapped around your little finger and you won't think of me at all."

Gerard smiles against his shoulder. "Yes I will," he says, raising his head. "I'll never forget you."

They stay that way for a while, Grant stroking Gerard's hair, Gerard leaning against him, basking in the feeling of being held.

Later, when they're getting ready to leave, Grant takes Gerard's hand and presses a handful of bills into it.

"Take it," he says when Gerard opens his mouth to protest. "Trust me, making your own way is far easier when you have help getting started."

Gerard nods, not trusting himself to speak. He's too afraid that if he opens his mouth, he'll lose all his nerve and beg to stay with Grant.

Grant turns toward the small desk, scribbles something on the hotel stationary there, and turns back to Gerard. "And this is my address in Scotland. I travel a lot, so a letter may take time to reach me, but when it does I'll answer. If I can ever do anything more for you, let me know." Smiling, he adds, "And even if you don't need anything, I wouldn't mind knowing how you're getting on."

Gerard looks up at him for a moment, and then throws himself forward, hugging Grant tightly. "Of all the people who could have passed me on the road and offered me a ride, how'd I get lucky enough to have it be you?" he murmurs into Grant's shirt.

"We were both lucky," Grant says, tilting Gerard's chin up. Gerard closes his eyes as Grant kisses him, slow and sweet and lingering.

Part Four
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August 2013


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