miss dramedy likes her love affairs in sailor suits.

Fifth beer down and Gene decides that's it, that's the game. He doesn't drink much ordinarily and much less when he's in the middle of shooting a picture, but they'd had a long day filming and Sinatra was getting frustrated with the dancing, and when Sinatra was frustrated it tended to be catching.

"Bartender," Frank says next to him, directing his call somewhere into the vicinity of Gene's right knee. "Trouble you for another ... 'nother round." He wrinkles his nose and lifts his head to smile at Gene. "What the hell, you can just abandon the bottle. I'll give it a good home."

"I hate to say it, pal, but you're punching above your weight here." Gene watches as Frank angles himself upright on his stool, all poky straight lines knifing back and forth like one of those folding beach chairs. "Maybe it's time to get back for the night."

Frank narrows one eye, which does nothing to dampen its blueness. Gene finds Frank's eyes to be godawful startling sometimes (and he hates to be startled, so sometimes he just won't connect with Frank's gaze on general principle), but here in the hazy cigarette air of the bar and the junked-out dim yellow lights it's tolerable. Except there's a funny hard glint in there, even through the booze and smoke.

It's gone fast, though, faster than Gene can be sure he even saw it, so he figures it was just the combination of late night and exhaustion pickled in beer. After all, Frank's voice sounds pretty normal when he glad-knuckles Gene's shoulder and says, "Whaaaat? It's still early! And we're in New York! And --" he leans forward conspiratorially, "this is the first time we been able to go out and not get recognized and swarmed."

"Maybe because your fans are more milkshakes than martinis," Gene drawls. "But that aside, we've got a lot of filming to do tomorrow. Plus the Prehistoric Man dance, and Betty'll be sore at you if you drop her on the floor again."

"We just ran into each other too hard, and it was only the once. Once. She didn't hold it against me, not like some perfectionist taskmasters I could mention."

Gene grins. It's not like he can protest, not and tell the truth of it. Frank's starting to look around for the bartender again, so Gene stands up and hauls his friend up as well; easy enough when the guy is mostly voice and bones. Betty and Ann can both pick him up without too much trouble, swing him around, even. Gene barely has to try. He bundles his armful of dovetailing, complaining bones out into the muggy night air, where Frank instantly pipes down for fear of being recognized and the two of them hop into the first cab that trundles past. Frank blows out a peevish stream of air as he slumps down in the backseat, taking up more room than he needs to, forearm trailing over Gene's thigh.

"Y'goddamn spoilsport," he mutters. The knobs in his wrist dig uncomfortably into Gene's muscles as Frank radiates sullen anger, and Gene ignores all of this performance to give the cabbie directions. When Frank starts to bitch it's best to leave him alone until he gets over himself. The cab driver pretends he doesn't know who they are and asks if he can listen to the sports highlights on the radio, which of course Gene gives his blessing to. After a few blocks, an extensive rundown on the baseball scores, and Gene and the cabbie having an overlapping and enthusiastic insult-fest over each other's team allegiances, Frank's gotten tired of being pissy in solitude and announces, "You're both humps. Don't talk up Pittsburgh for doing the same thing the Giants already did in '39," and then gets progressively cheerier as they approach the hotel.

The problem with the booze being on an upswing in Frank's system is that it makes him more fidgety and hard to corral. The doorman's already opened the hotel door for Gene before he realizes that Frank's rabbiting down the sidewalk in the direction of a bright nightclub sign, and Gene curses under his breath and jogs lightly after him. The rain's started up again and although the first pass of it feels as warm as spit, after a second or two it's actually chilly and Gene's mood is starting to change from indulgent to annoyed by the time he catches up with Frank. Who wasn't trotting all that fast to begin with, and who turns around and comes back with Gene with remarkably good-natured resignation for having seemed so determined. He can be a contrary bastard, and no mistake. "You're a real piece of work," Gene tells him as they finally get into the elevator, going up up up. He crosses his arms and they both lean against the back wall of the elevator, wetness of their clothes seeping into the upholstered panelling. "See if I break the rules for you again."

Frank's head is tipped back, his eyes closed. "You will, though," he murmurs, lazy and rain-wet and still scotched around the edges. Gene tilts his head so he can look over at his friend, but all he has a chance to see is a flash of unsettling blue before he feels Frank's mouth on his, angled off-centre and sleepy-hot, and to his own great astonishment Gene feels something start to warm up low in his belly in response.

Their noses bump as the elevator stops with a slight lurch and they're there, hanging in space and breathing in each other's rain-dampness as the doors slide open with a smug ding. "Yeah," Frank says, voice low and quiet -- and who knows, maybe it's that ol' exhaustion and alcohol cocktail -- but that one slow word of invitation and all Gene can think is

well, what the hell

as he steps out and follows Frank down the hallway, past his own hotel room door. It's already inching toward daybreak outside, but Frank pours a drink and pulls the curtains closed on the city and its rain and its burgeoning morning.


They manage to make it down to breakfast at a decent time and Frank elbows up to the table with the coffee to pour himself a cup of it, black and almost to the brim. He swallows it in huge gulps as Ann swishes over to him, perfectly coiffed already, and intones, "Good morning, Frances."

"Good morning, Johnnie," Frank says back, a beat more warily than their usual wry greeting warrants. Gene busies himself with shaking pepper over his scrambled eggs in what he's fairly certain is a normal and nonchalant manner, and when he looks up at Ann she deliberately raises one eyebrow and her red lips curve into a measured, knowing smile over the rim of her cup. "Amazing the difference that shooting on location can make, isn't it?" she says, and Vera looks up from her untouched plain toast and coffee to nod and brightly declare, "oh, it's the best! Not like being on the backlot at all. It feels as though I can do anything I want here and not have to worry about the studio people!"

Jules clasps her hands between his own, knocking over the toast rack in the process. "Oh, but you can, Bunny!" he squeaks. "We're in the big city now! No Ma and Pa to spy on our wild ways!" Everybody laughs, and Jules looks over at Gene and winks broadly at him, just once.

Saints preserve us from friends who know us too well, Gene thinks. Frank wanders over and sits down next to him at the table, a big red lip-print under his ear from Ann's spontaneous parting kiss over by the coffee, and he puts one elbow on the table so he can prop his chin up in his palm. The other arm dangles next to the chair and without thinking, Gene reaches down and impulsively grabs Frank's hand.

Frank doesn't turn those blue eyes on him, but Gene can see the corner of his smile.

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