Gerard really didn’t mean to walk straight into the gay bar.
Really. It was an accident! He could without a doubt attest to that – the place was marked only by a small, dimly glowing Pepsi sign, and he’d been to all the other bars in the area, so he’d just wondered…
But as they say, curiosity killed the cat. And so it was that Gerard slipped into the unmarked, unassuming, somewhat shabby building, and all at once found himself in the middle of what was very obviously a gay bar.
It was kind of like in the movies when everything just goes silent and everyone looks up at you. Gerard had barely made it three feet into the room when all the heads turned, and he found himself faced with dozens of pairs of male eyes, narrowed and looking him up and down.
Gerard made a small gulping noise, because this wasn’t just any gay bar – it was a scary gay bar. Practically everybody was dressed head to toe in leather, with piercings, tattoos, and dyed or impressively styled hair. And to top it all off, all of the guys were fucking huge, and Gerard felt very tiny, and very much like he did not want to be there. He took a step back, and collided with another one of the guys, who had evidently snuck up behind him.
“How about you stay awhile?” said the guy, and the way he said it made it very clear that it wasn’t a request.
“Uh,” Gerard stuttered, edging away, “you know, I actually really should go-”
“Don’t you dare,” said the guy, narrowing steel gray eyes and advancing, a hulking mass of black leather and shiny metal. Gerard’s heart skipped a beat in panic, and he scrambled to get away, only to find three others coming closer. Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit-
Gerard spun, ready to face another attacker, but was bemused to find, instead, a short guy with tattoos curling from the collar of his leather jackets and covering his exposed hands. He had a black and blonde faux hawk and a lip and nose piercing, and although most of the other guys in the room were probably at least two feet taller than him, he looked perfectly at ease, one hand stuck casually in his pocket and the other extended to Gerard like a lifeline.
“Um,” Gerard said intelligently, and the guy grinned at him, grabbing his sweaty hand and hauling him away from the others. He waited for somebody to jump them or something, but when he glanced back, to his shock, the others were glaring but retreating, going back to…well, whatever they were doing before he came.
The short guy was dragging him towards the actual bar, and Gerard eyed him quizzically, trying to figure this dude out. He had on a heavy leather jacket, a little worn, and tight black jeans. Gerard had expected that he would have steel tipped boots or whatever the hell gay doms wore, but he just had on some scuffed black Chucks. In other words, besides his hair, piercings, and tattoos, he really didn’t look like he belonged here, and Gerard had no clue why the others had just let this guy take him away; though he was grateful for it.
The short guy plopped down on a barstool and patted the stool next to him. Gerard sat hesitantly, giving him a sideways look. The guy just smiled wider. “I’m Frank,” he said, sticking out his hand again.
“Gerard,” he answered, letting the other shake his hand enthusiastically. “Uh,” he added, “you didn’t have to-”
Frank snorted. “Yeah, I did. I wasn’t about to let them ambush your virgin ass,” he giggled.
Gerard flushed and coughed. “I’m not actually…I didn’t mean to come here.”
Frank chuckled at him and eyed him knowingly. “Sure you didn’t.”
“No,” Gerard said desperately, “I’m…fuck, I’m straight. I thought…I thought this was just, you know, a bar, not…”
“The muscular tops convention?” Frank supplied, his eyes glinting.
“Yeah,” Gerard breathed nervously. They were still watching them – he could feel it – but keeping their distance.
“You’re straight,” Frank said in a disbelieving tone after a moment of silence. “No offense, dude, but you kind of-”
“Shut up,” Gerard snapped, eyes downcast. “I wanted a fucking drink, not a lay, and especially not a lay who’s a dude.”
Frank held up his hands in surrender. “Whoa, I know when I’m not wanted. They, on the other hand…” He jerked his head towards the others and shook his head. “Not so much.”
“So why’d they leave me alone?”
Frank sniffed. “Because they know not to fuck with me.”
“Have they tried?”
He raised an eyebrow lazily. “Obviously. C’mon, Gerard, take a look around you. They probably weigh easily twice as much as me, twice as tall…and they’re twice as power obsessed. But they learned pretty fast I’m not as weak as I seem.”
“Oh,” said Gerard, because really, what else was he supposed to say to that? “So…are you…you know…”
“A dom?” Frank said bluntly, and Gerard went red. He didn’t seem to notice. “Nah. I’m a top, sure, but…I’m flexible.” He shot a toothy smile at Gerard, green eyes bright, and Gerard looked away. He didn’t say anything. Frank rolled his eyes. “Wow, fine. Reject me, I get it,” but his tone was light. “Now, what about that drink you wanted?”
Gerard started to protest, but Frank was already ordering two beers. Gerard narrowed his eyes. If this asshole thought he could get Gerard drunk enough to agree to come home and be his butt buddy, then he was wrong.
But….after two or three beers, it became quite evident that Frank was content just to talk with him. Gerard learned that he, like Gerard, was from Belleville, New Jersey, and had moved here to Newark for job related reasons. Frank was an only child and his parents had divorced at a young age. His grandparents were Italian and he loved guitar – he’d been active in the New Jersey and New York City punk scene for quite a while.
Gerard tried at first not to tell him too much, but the drinks the other supplied him with started taking their toll and he couldn’t help but launch into a very rambling version of his life story (struggling art school grad and comic book lover). And Frank, to his credit, just listened, all big green eyes and pursed pink lips and curling black and white hair. And, Gerard thought, he was really fucking pretty.
But Gerard had more self-control than most people gave him credit for; especially when it came to alcohol. He still had a pretty good tolerance for the stuff, and when Frank leaned on him after god knew how long, batting his eyelashes and baring his teeth with wandering hands and arched brows, Gerard shifted away, shaking his head. “No,” he said, for good measure, and Frank’s face fell.
“Gerard,” he tried, but the other slid off of the stool and turned to go. “No! Wait,” Frank said, and there was a serious, commanding tone to his voice which made Gerard look back, shoulders squared defiantly even though he was swaying a little.
“What?” he asked flatly.
“You can’t go, Gerard,” Frank muttered. “They’ll follow you.”
“I can take care of myself, thanks,” Gerard shot back.
“Listen to me! You have two choices – you can either come home with me and be safe, or go out there and be tracked by them. They like fresh meat, but if they know you’re with me, then you won’t-”
Gerard furrowed his brow. “Safe? With you?” He scoffed. “I don’t even know you, Frank – much less trust you to keep me safe. I think I’ll take my chances.” He paused and added. “Thanks for the drinks.”
And with that, he spun on his heel and finally, fucking finally, walked away.
one week later
Gerard had the very unnerving feeling that somebody was behind him.
He ignored the feeling, because after all, it was only a feeling; and he could be a very paranoid person. He clutched the new sketchbooks closer to his body and with his other hand clutched his hot paper cup of coffee, steam rising from the lid. His apartment wasn’t far from here – he decided to take a shortcut through an alley which…actually looked vaguely familiar.
Gerard had only a glimpse of a faintly glowing Pepsi sign and the flash of sun on metal as warning before something – no, someone – slammed into him, smashing him against the graffiti covered wall, making his ribs cry out in agony as he was manhandled. His coffee tumbled from his fingers, and so did his brand new sketchbook, much to his dismay. He stared at the brown liquid staining the white pages as the man pressed closer. His breath was stale, like old beer, and Gerard could feel the hard muscles straining against him. He didn’t have a chance.
“You tried to run once,” the guy chuckled, his broad hands covering Gerard’s forearm, which was braced against the cement and spray-painted surface behind them. “You’re not gonna get away now.”
Gerard resolutely looked away, setting his jaw. “Fuck you,” he muttered, and though he’d been expecting it, he was still stunned by the heavy blow to his jaw, making his teeth rattle and cut the inside of his cheek when he bit down in reflex. Blood filled his mouth and he furrowed his brow, staring the other in the eyes now. He had spiky blonde hair and shiny gray eyes – he was the first guy who had approached Gerard in the bar – come back to claim his rewards, maybe.
“So fucking pretty,” he cooed, and it sounded strange coming from the brute’s mouth. “I told them you were mine.”
“Frank,” Gerard said, not sure who he was talking to, but the second the name came from his mouth, the man’s fist collided with his cheekbone and he could feel the beginnings of a black eye swelling from the impact. Another punch was landed on his abdomen, his side, and it hurt to breathe as he was all but crushed by the weight of the other. “Frank,” he whispered again, and this time the guy kicked him, hard.
“That fucker. He had his chance.”
“Ever heard of second chances?”
Gerard started at the new voice, and blinked as the guy released him, spinning to face the other man, who was short, pierced, and tattooed, with dark and light hair and narrowed eyes. “Iero,” spat the larger of the two, and he moved to overcome him, but Frank was faster, knocking him backwards with orange and black fists. Gerard slowly peeled himself away from the wall, feeling the sweat on the back of his shirt and the hair prickling at the nape of his neck. He’d really thought that…fuck, he should have listened to Frank.
The man was on the ground now, Frank shoving his knees into the other’s chest and making him wheeze, grunting and gasping before Frank managed to fend off his weak, badly placed punches and knock him out, his head making a sick sound as it hit the concrete. His head lolled back, still.
Gerard picked up his soggy sketchbook with shaky hands. His mouth was still bleeding, and the scarlet drops fell onto the brown paper. Frank was still on the guy’s chest, breathing hard and clenching his fists. Gerard took a step back again, and pain went through him yet again as he hit the wall heavily. Frank was like a stray dog – Gerard was unsure whether or not to approach him; if he would be bitten or welcomed.
Silence reigned until Frank said in between soft pants, “Idiot.”
Gerard swallowed audibly. “Sorry.”
Frank snorted and got up unsteadily, shaking his head so that his fringe of black fell into his face. He looked at Gerard and the other cringed, shrinking back against the wall again as Frank stepped closer. Had he just traded one assault for another?
One of Frank’s calloused hands came up to his face and Gerard squeezed his eyes shut. The fingertips skated gently over the inflamed marks on his face, coming up to push Gerard’s long hair out of his eyes. He opened said eyes then, cheered by the fact that Frank hadn’t hit him yet.
“I did warn you,” Frank said quietly.
“Sorry,” Gerard said again, shrugging. He was uncomfortable now – well, more uncomfortable – and he didn’t know what to do with Frank so close (besides follow his instinct, which was to kiss him).
Frank regarded him for a few long minutes before asking, “Where did you get that sketchbook?”
Gerard looked down at the ruined sketchbook dumbly. “Uh…t-the store on the corner? I…it’s called The Starving Artist or something.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “Then move your ass, starving artist. I’m buying you a new sketchbook, and then you are coming back to my place, got it?”
Gerard stared at him with comically wide eyes. “I’m not-”
“I get it, you fucker, but you’re bleeding all over the place right now if you haven’t noticed, and my apartment is less than a block away.”
“Shut your mouth and follow me.”
“Okay,” Gerard said, completely bewildered, but glad to leave the alley and its slumbering giant.
“You don’t have to,” Gerard stuttered as Frank dragged him into a coffee shop, shoving the newly purchased sketchbook into Gerard’s arms.
“Coffee heals the soul,” Frank snapped, getting in line. “And you need a lot of healing right now, fucker.”
Gerard hunched his shoulders and hugged the sketchbook to him, staring down at the tiles.
“What’s your order?” Frank asked him, nudging his shoulder.
Gerard’s throat was dry and it took him a few tries before he could actually speak. “Uh. J-just a black espresso.”
Frank huffed. “Boring,” he said, but he still ordered it, along with a ‘Biscotti Frappuccino,’ which Gerard had never heard of, and it didn’t appear to be on the menu. When Frank collected his drink and handed a grateful Gerard his plain coffee, he caught the other’s questioning look and grinned. “Secret menu,” he said.
Gerard just nodded like he knew what Frank was talking about and let the other haul him out of the coffee shop and back onto the street, towards an apartment building Gerard saw quite often on his way to work. Gerard sipped his coffee nervously and winced when he sniffed – he still had a bloody nose.
Frank must have noticed, because they were in the apartment building now, and Frank tugged him into the elevator, pressing the 3 button. Gerard edged away from him as soon as the doors closed, burying his nose in the smell of coffee. Frank was glaring at the glowing elevator keypad, and turned to Gerard as it dinged and the doors opened, yanking him out and over to a scuffed white door. Frank unlocked it and Gerard shuffled unsurely inside, knocking his elbow on the doorframe and wincing at the sting that produced.
Frank locked the door behind them with a click, and Gerard was at once totally aware of where he was and totally unaware of what he was doing here. He turned around and Frank was right there, and he almost dropped his coffee and sketchbook again. Frank was sucking on the straw of his frappuccino and his brows were lowered. “Get on the couch,” Frank told him, setting the drink down on the counter and placing Gerard’s coffee and sketchbook beside it.
“Um…why?” Gerard asked, eyes widening comically.
“So I can have really fantastic sex with you,” Frank said sarcastically, pushing him onto said couch.
Gerard gaped at him. “I don’t want to-”
Frank rolled his eyes. “I’m kidding, you dork. If we were doing that, we would be using the bed.”
Gerard cautiously settled back against the couch. “Right. Um.”
Frank put his hands on his hips and then scurried into the kitchen, throwing an ice pack at Gerard, who flailed to catch it. This was followed by a box of tissues, which hit Gerard square in the face and didn’t do much to help his nosebleed. Frank laughed and said over his shoulder, “Get better, I’m going out,” and then he was gone out the door, coffee in his hand.
Somewhere along the line, exhaustion had triumphed, and Gerard had fallen asleep. He’d briefly pondered running away from the apartment, or hiding, or something, but in the end he didn’t even have enough strength to get up and retrieve his coffee.
He’d fallen asleep on the couch, but awoke in a bed, a soft bed with cool sheets. At first he nestled deeper into the mattress, and then it registered fully in his tired mind and he bolted upright, his body protesting to the sudden movement vehemently. Just to check, he looked to the other side of the bed, and exhaled in relief when he saw Frank wasn’t there. He didn’t seem to have any new aches or pains either, so most likely he hadn’t been ravished in his sleep or something.
The door to the bedroom swung open.
“Rise and shine,” Frank said, tossing his head.
“Wait,” Gerard said suddenly, “what time is it?”
“You slept quite a while, princess,” Frank said brightly, settling down on the edge of the bed, “it’s eight a.m.”
Gerard blinked furiously. “I need to – work starts at…oh fuck!”
“Calm your tits,” Frank chuckled, “it’s Sunday.”
Gerard frowned at him. “Don’t say that.”
Gerard wrinkled his nose. “Tits. It’s not…don’t objectify women, okay? Not fucking cool.”
Frank blinked at him and then his features settled into an apologetic smile. “Okay. Sorry.” He was quiet, then asked, “So, are you the polite, let’s-take-it-slow, romantic type then?”
Gerard looked away, uncomfortable once more. Frank was a dude, and Gerard was straight – and yet he’d met him at a gay bar and was now in his home, in his bed, talking to him about relationships. And somehow that didn’t feel as weird to him as it should have.
“I…I’m more of the socially-awkward-lucky-to-get-laid-ever type,” he admitted.
“Oh,” Frank said, tilting his head at him. “I think you have more than luck on your side, though, Gerard.”
Gerard flushed. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” Frank told him, scooting closer. “You’re a pretty rad guy, you know that?”
“Not beautiful anymore?” Gerard asked boldly, remembering Frank’s first words to him.
Frank beamed. “Still beautiful.”
And then he was leaning closer, breath feathering over Gerard’s lips, and he was frozen, waiting for Frank’s next move.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” Frank murmured. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Gerard answered, and then their mouths were connecting, hesitant at first and then more firmly, Frank moving so he could cover Gerard’s body with his own and tilt their heads the right way. Frank’s tongue traced the seam of his lips and Gerard let it in without a second’s hesitation, cupping Frank’s rough cheek with his palm, surprised and yet comforted by the rasp of stubble against it. It made him unable to pretend he wasn’t kissing a man, it made him startled and yet pleased at the fact that he was kissing a man. It made him push his own tongue back, clumsily but eagerly, and it made both of their breath catch and their throats vibrate with soft noises.
Then Gerard was pulling away – too much, too soon; but he was smiling, and there was something a cheesy novelist might call a ‘warm glow of happiness’ in his chest. It might have just been the heat of Frank against him, though, and the steady beat of their hearts.
“I like surprises, you know,” Gerard said. “You didn’t have to tell me what you were going to do.”
Frank shrugged, but he was smiling, too. “I wanted you to be prepared for the first time a guy kissed you.”
Gerard raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that was the first time?”
Frank smirked at him. “I know things.”
Gerard sighed and said, “Do you also know I’m not exactly ready for what that guy in the alley wanted?”
Frank made a face of disgust at the mention of the other and leaned down again, kissing Gerard lightly once more. “I know. I didn’t expect you to be. But I just…” he trailed off and lapsed into silence.
Gerard picked at the cotton sheets. “I’m sorry. I’m probably the most prude of all the guys you’ve ever picked up at that bar, huh?”
Frank considered him, then giggled and replied, “Maybe. But you’re also the one I wanted to date the most.”
Gerard’s cheeks caught fire. “Oh,” he said. “Oh.” He looked at Frank’s expectant face and round green eyes and knew his answer already. “I…yeah. I’d like that.”
Frank’s face split into a grin, and he curled his body down towards Gerard, kissing the tip of his nose. “Hello, beautiful.”
“Hello yourself,” Gerard told him, and he could feel Frank’s smile pressed against his own.