by Lesa Soja

All the while Gerard is getting dressed, he keeps one eye on Frank's progress up the length of the bus. Frank puts his own stuff on first, as usual, and then he moves over to Ray and slings Ray's tie around his neck. Ray leans back lazily while Frank works, then takes the completed loop out of Frank's hands with a grin to slip it on over his hair.

Next Frank pauses to high-five Bob, whose tie is already knotted in a deft windsor. The smack of their hands cracks sharply in Gerard's ear. Mikey, who is pulling a jacket on over his T-shirt, turns around to wave Frank off with both hands. Frank sticks his own hands out and flaps them back at Mikey, who swivels his wrists to show Frank the backs of his middle fingers.

Then Frank is standing in front of Gerard.

"Hi," he says.

"Hi," Gerard answers.

Frank's fingers brush his as the cloth changes hands, and Frank holds his gaze while the knot takes shape. Gerard feels a little short of breath as he bends forward and bows his head. Frank lays the tie around his neck like a medal. When Gerard can look up again, an anthem is beating in his chest.