Gerard watches the door to Riot Squad Tattoos twice a day, every weekday as he takes his cigarette breaks. He leans against the wall of the strip mall that connects Danger Days Comics to the tattoo parlor. He spends the precious free time pretending not to be creepy as he ogles the artists and sucks down smoke.
It's a small shop and there are only a handful of artists but it's like they're all made of hotness. There's the tall curly haired guy, the one with legs like oak trees, and there's the guy with the beard and glasses who is always wearing a shirt for one cause or another. There's the girl with the Japanese sleeve and the pension for red lipstick and short skirts and the owner who has short brown hair and what looks like a perpetual headache but it's hot on him.
Worst or best of all – it's hard to tell sometimes - there's the little guy, the one with tattoos going up his neck and down to his fingers that make Gerard stupid every time he steps into the sunshine. Damn him, Gerard's always had a thing for short guys. Case and point, his ex, Bert and now Tiny Tattooy McHotass.
He doesn't go inside until his shop's been open for more than a year but that's not his fault. He has a thing about needles. Also, he's not the best with people.
"Then you really shouldn't be working in a service-based industry," Mikey points out.
"Comics isn't a service based industry. Besides, comic-book fans aren’t people." Gerard protests.
Mikey just stares at him over the glass counter of the display case beneath the register. It takes Gerard less than half a minute to crack.
"I mean that in a good way. And they're not people, they're kindred spirits. It's not the same."
Gerard takes a second to glance around. It's noon on a Thursday. There's only a few guys at one of the gaming tables so he feels no compunctions about rolling his eyes and sighing "Fuck you," in Mikey's general direction like he wouldn’t if there were kids in the store.
"Yeah. So, you go on lunch in ten and you're coming with me to Riot Squad."
"I don't like needles."
"I know that."
"Yet we're having this conversation."
"Well, turns out? I don’t actually care. You're coming with me anyway."
That's how, despite his protests and the pleading looks he casts Bob on his way out of Danger Days, Gerard ends up standing nervously in the lobby of Riot Squad instead of over at Subway overdosing on delicious deli meats. That's how much he loves his little brother.
The owner frowns when they come in, barely glancing up from his appointment book. "You're late."
"I'm not late, Brian. You said be here at twelve."
"Which it was, twenty minutes ago. Get back there and set up your shit already." He stops and looks up. "Oh hey. Comic Book Guy."
"Did he bring comics?" calls tiny hot guy, his dyed hair popping up from behind the counter in a flash of red and black. "I need the new Batman."
"He brought Mikey."
"Almost as good as Batman. Nice to meet you Comic Book Guy."
Gerard stares. He wonders if something has broken in his brain now that he has the chance to see the tiny hot guy's glinting lip ring up close. He is not thinking about how that ring would feel against his skin because that would be creepy and deeply inappropriate. Of course, it takes him awhile for his brain to agree with this and regain the ability to form words. "Gerard. Um, I'm Gerard."
"Oh, yeah, Mikey's brother. Cool. I'm Frank. That's Ray," he points at the tall guy with the curly hair. "Andy's out of town and Lindsey's not working today but she'll probably be around later anyway."
Brian snorts. "Gosh Frank, aren’t you just the most congenial deb at the whole fucking cotillion."
Frank ignores him. "And you already met our pet asshole and fearless leader Brian right?"
"You're just full of witty observations today, aren’t you?"
"Ignore Brian. He's a douchebag when he hasn’t had his coffee and smokes."
"I am not a douchebag."
"You are but we love you anyway."
"I'm going to make sure Mikey doesn't break anything," Brian mumbles before stumbling away.
It leaves Gerard alone, with Frank the tiny hot tattoo artist. He opens and closes his mouth a few times looking for something, anything at all, to say to fill the empty air that Frank seems perfectly comfortable with and fails. Instead his stomach does the talking for him, rumbling in protest over the fact that all he had for breakfast that morning were cigarettes and a venti mochaccino from the Starbucks at the very end of the complex.
"Oh, dude, yeah. You're probably on lunch right? I keep forgetting that most people's days start in like, the morning you know?" Frank declares.
He beams at Gerard with the radiant smile of people who don't have to get up until nearly noon every day. It fits him, makes him look even younger than he actually is. Plus, the rumpled tie around a sloppy white shirt collar makes him look like he just escaped from a prep school assembly to focus his attention on playing some serious hooky.
"Yeah. I got kidnapped. This is my version of a windowless cell," he says, then waves his hands around at the decorated walls of the studio. Then he drops his hands and feels heat burn the back of his neck and across his cheeks as he realizes how insulting that must've come out, not to mention psycho.
Frank comes out from behind the counter and grabs him by the arm. "I'm a big fan of Stockholm Syndrome. It's all about building captor/captive relationships with food. I think there's leftover pizza in the staff fridge if you want it."
"It doesn’t have fruit on it does it?" Gerard asked hesitantly. Frank just laughed at him as he dragged him into the back, where Mikey and Brian are fighting over whether or not Mikey's been apprenticed long enough to finally do a piece of his own. Frank gently moves Mikey to the right so he can access the fridge as Mikey lays down what sounds like an old argument about practice hours and dedication.
There's no pineapple on the pizza. Frank talks while he eats, drawing Gerard into conversation about the replacement of Tim Drake as Robin by Damien Wayne, about which Frank appears to have Very Strong Feelings. "Seriously, those capitals aren’t just implied," Frank tells him as he picks at the cheese that hangs off the end of one over-microwaved slice. "The guy makes me want to roll my comic up and break things with it."
Gerard doesn't exactly know how to deal with someone who is that gorgeous and speaks his language at the same time but he's got his opinion too and it comes pouring out because, really, it's DC. If they didn’t get some fresh blood some time, what the hell would they do with themselves? "It's not like the Batfamily are the X-men. New bat-trainees don’t just pop up like random mutations."
Of course this triggers an argument about X-men versus the Doom Patrol. Gerard doesn’t remember he actually has a business to run and a job to get back to until he's an hour late and has six missed calls from Bob on his cell phone threatening a slow, painful death.
He brings Bob pizza when he goes back to the shop though. So, despite Bob's frown, he's forgiven.
"Gee, you have to come over to the shop. We're pretty sure this new client is using your brother to give Brian a stroke."
Gerard manages not to drop a stack of back-issue Green Lanterns jumping with surprise at Frank sneaking up on like that. He plays it off. In fact, spinning around frantically and fumbling comics like the failiest juggler the world has ever seen is the very definition of smooth.
"He's what?" Gerard asks, befuddled. Frank has re-dyed his hair. It's blond on the sides now. If possible, it looks even better on him than the red.
"There's this vein in his forehead above his eye," Frank cackles, tapping his forehead to demonstrate. "It looks like something out of Ren and Stimpy it's so pronounced. We've got a pool going on how long it takes to pop so give that to the blond with the bad taste to like Spiderman and come on."
"This is a place of tolerance, Frank. We don't judge people based on their reading choices in this store," Gerard says before he can help himself. It's one of his patented speeches for breaking up philosophical fights about big issues like DC versus Marvel or which would win in a fight, Batman or Superman; especially crafted for conflicts that usually end up with all parties resorting to name calling.
Even if it weren't practically reflex by now, that's Bob Frank is talking about. Coworker solidarity calls for Gerard to come to his defense and everything. Bob's hit a guy in the face for him before. It's only fair.
"Whatever. Put those down and come with me before we miss it."
Then Frank takes him by the hand and drags him out. Gerard thinks about protesting but Frank's fingers are strong and calloused and they have ink all over them. Oh, and most importantly – they are touching him.
"Bob! Watch the store for me!"Gerard calls just before the door closes behind them. Bob answers but it's a grumble cut off by the door clicking shut. Then he's alone with Frank who seems gleeful. "What's going on?"
"Okay," Frank says, turning to walk backwards so that he could face Gerard. "Mikey's apprenticing right?"
Yeah, Gerard knew that. Of the two of them, Mikey isn't who anyone would've pegged as the Way brother to end up in a career that relied on drawing. Then six months ago he'd stopped into Riot Squad and that had been that. He'd stopped spending his free time in Danger Days and before Gerard knew it, his little brother was working full time towards becoming a tattoo artist.
"And there're rules. Brian's a stickler for them, so Mikey's got to do a certain number of hours of practice and a certain amount of work on people who pick shit out of books before he can do his own project. Only this guy came in with a fist full of cash asking for a Disney sleeve and insisting that Mikey do it."
"And Brian's not happy?"
Frank laughs. Gerard likes it. It's a good sound, loose and free. "Brian is ready to stab them both. Mikey's excited because it'll be his first solo project and this guy is dead-set."
"There's no way this will end well is there?" Gerard asks as Frank opens the door of Riot Squad Tattoos.
That made Frank laugh again. "Nope and Lindsey made popcorn."
Inside the shop, Lindsey, Ray, Andy and fourth much shorter person in a trucker hat are in fact lined up, leaning against the front counter – munching popcorn. Lindsey reaches back and waves at them as Mikey, Brian, and a guy with dark skin and black hair fight.
Frank slides up next to Lindsey and hisses "What'd I miss?"
"Pete's being stupid and she's bogarting the popcorn," the short stranger said. "Make her pass it this way, Hurley."
"Yeah," Andy snorts. Beyond that he doesn't move. "I don't make her do anything. I like my hands attached to my arms."
"She's right here," Lindsey hisses. "Say please, stumpy."
"Please," he hisses. "And its just Stump. No –ee."
Lindsey grins. Goddamnit her smile is so gorgeous. The pretty factor in this place, it's just really unfair. She holds out the bowl, in his direction, teasing. "Sure thing, Stumpy."
"Also Patrick. Patrick works too."
"Because I said you can't, that's why!" Brian roars, cutting off any other conversation.
Frank leans over Gerard's shoulder to see better. He's a short man and he has to go up on tiptoes to see over him. The movement presses his chest fully against Gerard's back. Warmth sinks through the fabric and he can feel Frank's breath on the skin of his ear. Like magic he forgets all about Lindsey's smile and Brian's yelling and anything that isn't Frank.
His treacherous brain instantly conjures the question of "what would it feel like without the shirts between us?" He thinks it'd be even hotter, maybe a little slippery with sweat. The thought alone makes Gerard's mouth dry out.
"Scooch up." Frank hisses. He drops back down and slides under Gerard's arm. It leaves Gerard with his arm draped around Frank like they're snuggling at the movies or something. Jesus, how is this his life?
"You do know that it's my money right?" the dark haired client, Pete, asks.
"I don't care," Brian snaps. "He's not ready and I'm not losing my license and my OSHA certification because you're a stubborn asshole."
"I can do this," Mikey protests. "Brian, you know I can."
"I don’t know shit. What I know is that you both want me to risk my livelihood because Mr. Psycho over hear has decided based on the fact that you've got a nice ass that he wants you to do his sleeve."
"His nice ass has nothing to do with it," Pete protests.
"Liar," Patrick calls. "Minus ten points for lying."
"I'll supervise," Frank offers. He's laughing but it's undercut with seriousness. Gerard can hear it and Mikey can too. He spins quickly and looks at Frank with patented Mikey Way Eyes of Hope that make bassett hounds' mournful stares look weak and ineffectual. "He can do the baseline art, I'll do outlining and then he can come in and do shade and color. It'll be good practice."
"Oh, gee, Frank, do you still work here?" Brian is not happy. He's tiny and furious and he scares Gerard a little but his anger just makes Frank laugh more.
"That’s what the IRS said last time they audited me. Come on man. He's got to lose his cherry sometime."
"I will totally take your cherry," Pete says. He's positively breathless and ew. Gerard didn’t need that mental image.
Gerard slams his hands over his ears. "Brother," he whimpers. "Can we not talk about deflowering my brother while I'm here?"
"There aren’t enough trees left in the Amazon to create the paper needed for all the waivers I'd need before I let him-" Brian pointed at Mikey, "Go near him" he drags his finger over to jab at Pete, "With one of my guns."
"I know a lawyer." Pete says. Mikey grins and nods like a bobblehead on the dash of a car with shit transmission on a dirt road in the Rockies. It makes Gerard a little nauseated just watching him.
Brian throws up his hands. "Fine! It's your body. I need a fucking smoke." He storms out to a smattering of applause, mostly from Ray and Lindsey who seem the least scared of Brian and all his small-statured fury.
"Come on," Pete says, grabbing Mikey by the hand. "Let me buy you a drink and tell you what I'm looking for." He pulls him out the door and into the sunlight after Brian.
"Use a rubber!" Patrick calls, rubbing his face. "Right, my work here is done."
Gerard's body is wracked with a full-body shudder at the thought of Mikey and this Pete guy using condoms in any capacity. Frank gives him a comforting squeeze. It's surprising because when the hell had he wrapped an arm around Gerard's waist?
"I'll walk you out, Stumpy," Lindsey offers and then she's gone too. The phone rings and Ray goes to pick it up. Andy heads into the back of the shop.
Then Gerard is alone with Frank with nothing to say. Again. He has got to stop ending up like this. The nerves involved are going to give him an ulcer or something.
Only he finds he doesn't have to say anything. Frank gives him another squeeze before sliding out from under his arm and beckoning him to his work station with a head jerk. "C'mon. I want you to see what I'm working on. Mikey says you know a fuckton about art."
This is true. He went to art school. He used to work for Comedy Central, before he quit and opened the store after 9-11. He still works on comic ideas when things are slow at Danger Days. He doesn’t even miss working in the art industry anymore though. He has more time and more love for the visual arts now than he ever did trying to make a living on it.
Frank's station in the studio has a black leather chair that looks like it could've been purloined from a heavy metal dentist's office. The walls surrounding it are like any cubicle only they don’t come up past chest height and are papered with tattoo designs. Most of them are on a plain white backdrop but some are pictures of ink on skin, Frank's work.
His style is simpler than Gerard's, boxier than Mikey's. It's very him though. "This is really cool."
"Yeah? Well right now, I'm working on a piece for this guy whose dog passed away." He pulls a wheeled stool out of a corner and drops onto it. He rolls across the cubicle. “It's going to be a whole back piece which – dude, I love my dogs but not that much. Anyway, I can't get the snout. Take a look?"
Gerard drops into the tattoo chair as Frank holds out the folder. It's an intricate piece involving a large English bulldog but yeah, there's something not right with it. "I think you got the proportion a little off. Yeah, it’s a little too wide here, under the nose."
Frank holds out a pencil. "Show me," he declares. He seems like he conjured the pencil from thin air. One minute it wasn't there and the next it was dangling from his fingers. He waves it at Gerard until he takes it and their fingers touch like something out of a shitty romance novel you get for 3 dollars at the grocery store.
"I don’t know," Gerard hedges. "It's your job."
"It is," Frank agrees with another one of those huge whole-face smiles. "Mikey's showed me a couple of your sketches. I know you're good. Help me do it better."
Frank's smile gets even wider and there's no way he can say no to that. God, Gerard thinks as he puts pencil to paper. He is so screwed.
Mikey spends every free moment he's not in Riot Squad getting in Gerard's way for the next two weeks. He keeps showing him sketches for that guy Pete's sleeve. Gerard wouldn't mind that if he didn't keep doing it at the worst times.
"That'll be $32.77," Gerard is saying to a lovely brunette with long, manicured fingernails who he is distinctly not judging for buying the novelizations of the first Sailor Moon mangas when he snaps. She's trying to hand over a handful of bills that Gerard needs to pay his mortgage and feed himself when Mikey shoves a sketch of the Mayor of Halloweentown under his nose.
"I think his head is too triangular. What do you think?"
What he really thinks is that he and Pete should just make out already and let Brian do this job so that Gerard can have his peace back. What he says is "Mikes, do you not see my customer here?"
Mikey glances at her and gives just the slightest nod. "Oh. Hey."
She beams at him. She's just the type to smile a lot, Gerard thinks. She's got one of those smiles. It goes well with her red lipstick. Most people can't carry that color off but she sure can. "Hi."
And with that Mikey is done with her. "So, about the Mayor."
He pinches the bridge of his nose and closes his eyes for a moment. He doesn't count to ten but he gets past five before he can speak without yelling in front of a perfectly respectable customer. "Get out of my store."
"I can come back," the girl says, nervously. Gerard could kill Mikey. She's far less smiley now.
"No, miss, stay. You're fine. Mikey, get out. Or, I don’t know, go bother Bob."
"The only things Bob knows how to draw are ninja turtles."
"That's probably not true," the girl said. "I don't know the guy but he can probably do stick figures too. Everyone can do that. Also, flowers and for some reason, most guys seem to have an innate ability to draw cars. It's weird."
Honestly, it’s a miracle that Danger Days hasn’t been driven out of business by sheer inanity. It's not like he ever manages to get work done with half the shopping center in and out – getting in his way. Like Mikey. Right now. Who is debating masculinity in modern art with the girl with the fingernails.
Gerard takes the money out of her hand while they're both distracted, makes change and shoves it in the bag with her books. Then he clears his throat. "You two crazy kids should finish this conversation back at Riot Squad, or, you know, somewhere else."
The girl laughs. "No it's cool. Nice to meet you Mikey."
"You too, Bebe. Swing by the shop sometime."
She nods and waves and Gerard wonders how the hell Mikey does that. He manages to be friends with everyone in all the time it takes to blink. Gerard, on the other hand, still feels awkward with all the Riot Squad guys even after all these weeks.
Once she's gone, Mikey holds up the sketch again. "The Mayor. What do you think?
"Did you check it against the original reference material?" he asks like he's back in school, working on another hellish group project. Gerard thinks sometimes that Mikey should've been the one to go to art school. It would've actually been useful for him. Maybe he wouldn't spend as much time scaring off Gerard's customers if he had.
"I did but it's an interpretation for skin. That doesn't necessarily matter. I think it’s too triangular and I don't want it to throw off the balance of the sleeve you know?"
No. Gerard has no idea. "Go ask Brian."
"Brian makes these strangling noises when I try to talk to him about it. Lindsey says that it'll flesh out once it's on skin but I wanted your thoughts."
Warm fuzzies are not an appropriate reaction to such a simple statement. It's just that Gerard is a sap and it's nice to know that even now, after all these years, Mikey still cares what he thinks.
"I think it looks great, Mikey. If you're not really sure ask Frank or Ray but seriously. I think it's awesome."
Puppy eyes. Everyone is hitting him with puppy eyes lately. Gerard sighs and nods. He does mean it but the hope in Mikey's face is killing him. He reaches out and squeezes Mikey's wrist. "Really."
"Cool. You've got a Burton art-book right?"
"Yeah, it’s in movies and TV."
"Awesome. I'm going to grab that and go work at the gaming tables."
Gerard waves him off because that is a Mikey he can deal with. Give him something to do and he'll be silent for hours – days on end if left to his own devices. It gives Gerard the freedom to go about the business of, well, running a business.
It's quiet all the way through closing and when Bob leaves for the night, it’s just him and Mikey in the low light. He squeezes his brother's shoulder to get his attention because the kid – okay, he’s not a kid anymore but Gerard will always think of him that way - is deep in his own head and therefore basically dead to the world without direct contact. "I'm going to be in the back, Mikes."
Gerard squeezes his shoulder again. "Lock the door behind you if you leave." In response, Mikey makes a dismissive noise in the back of his throat that allows him to communicate "whatever Gerard, I know what I'm doing and I still have a key, you don’t have to tell me twice" without actually using any words. That’s good enough for Gerard and he heads into the back to deal with the new arrivals. Tomorrow is new issue day and if he isn't ready when the collectors came in, there'll be a bloody revolt.
He pulls his iPod out of his messenger bag and slips into the back room. It's quiet there, stacks of empty shelves and packing-tape wrapped back orders for customers and new issues and a computer that can handle Firefox and Quickbooks and some inventory software but doesn't waste RAM or money on extras like a soundcard.
Nights like this he settles into a rhythm in the mostly empty store-room. He unpacks books, checks them off in his inventory, makes sure everything's where it should be. It's mostly thoughtless work but he breaks it up when he flips through the new issues he's interested in. The new Grant Morrison issue of Batman is in and Gerard stops like he always does to read it before he can even think about finishing the job.
He's halfway through when arms drape around his shoulders, too heavy. He rolls his shoulders trying to make his brother shift so that his weight's evenly distributed. Mikey usually has better aim with his tackle.
Fingers pluck one of the earbuds out of his ear. If Mikey does something gross like making farting noise, Gerard is going to elbow him in the stomach. He's in perfect position for an awesome gut-shot.
Every muscle in Gerard's body freezes. That is not Mikey Way. He turns his head to the right, just a little, and catches a flash of blond hair and oh fuck. Frank is the one sprawling over his back like he belongs there.
"Cool." Frank sets his chin on his shoulder like he's been doing it forever, reading over his shoulder.
"Yeah. New issue."
"Thought that was due out tomorrow."
"How do you think it gets out? Some poor comic industry slave has to put them on the shelves."
"Slave huh?" The word comes out in a puff of air that heats the skin on the back of Gerard's neck. The warmth spreads down his spine and he shudders because the way Frank says it doesn't make him think of an Office Space worker drone at all. It makes him imagine thick leather collars with D-rings, perfect for attaching short leashes that wrap easily around tattooed fingers.
Gerard stares at a heavily shadowed drawing of Bruce Wayne standing next to Alfred without really seeing it. He's too focused on his breathing and getting his throat to work. Once he does, it takes three swallows before he can speak. "Yeah."
Frank says nothing to that. He just breathes. If Gerard were the praying type, his prayer would go something along the lines of: Please, dear Jesus God, don’t let him notice how turned on I am.
No. He's sweating through his Avengers t-shirt and panting like a toy poodle after a run. He should say "please stop touching me" but instead he nods like a moron. He can't think like this.
"Good. I'm going to have to kiss you then. I was talking about it with Mikey, and we've decided it's the right thing for me to do."
Fucking typical of Mikey. He probably called Frank and told him to come over as soon as Gerard went into the back to set up for tomorrow. "You discussed it?"
"Yeah. He's your brother, he's my best friend – he seemed like the go-to resource for this."
"Yeah, you know." Frank's fingers drum against his shoulders, the only hint of his nerves about this whole thing. "You and me."
Gerard pulls forward so that he can see Frank's face. It's an open book of emotion, just like always. "There's a you and me?
Ink-covered hands leave his chest turn so that his knuckles brush over Gerard's cheek. He hasn't been touched like this in years, not since long before things ended with his ex-boyfriend Bert and he got his shit together to open Danger Days.
A little moan escapes his throat would be embarrassing if it didn't make Frank smile. It's a lopsided, dopey grin that usually comes with a giggle and some obnoxious comment. He's not laughing now though.
"Well yeah, Gee. There is."
"Huh." He pulls out of Frank's arms, not because he wants to stop touching Frank but so that he can think because with Frank all over him, his brain has sputtered out and died. He sets down the comic and spins on his butt so he and Frank are sitting face to face on the floor, knees touching. "So, Mikey said you should kiss me?"
"Mikey said we should just kiss. He didn't specify who's kissing who just that one of us should grow a pair and do something already. But he's all stupid over the Nightmare sleeve guy and has been since he first showed up in Riot Squad so he's got no room to talk."
"You mean Pete?"
"I think so. I don't really care. Hey, I can I just be kissing you now? Because I've been waiting to kiss you for like a year."
Math's not his strongest suit but that doesn't add up quite right. "We've only known each other like two months."
In the low light, Gerard can see Frank's cheeks flush pink. "Yeah, but I've been watching you take your smoke breaks since we moved to this shop, so..."
Seriously? Frank was watching him? The idea sends shivers of pleasure through Gerard and now he's grinning back. "So."
"So yeah," Frank agrees, laughing at himself. Then his hands are on Gerard's face again, his palms this time, open like a net. His thumbs rest on Gerard's cheekbones and he strokes once, twice, three times over the right one before Frank leans in and kisses him.
He moves fast, catching Gerard's mouth in a hot, strong kiss that's as good as he hoped it would be and better than reality usually allows. Frank tastes like cigarettes and coffee and a hint of some fruit gum and just Frank. Gerard wraps one arm around the back from his neck and uses the other to grab at the short hair at the back of his head. It's got that weird bleached feeling to it and Gerard gives it a gentle tug that makes Frank laugh and moan at the same time before he pushes Gerard back onto the floor. Frank is small enough that he doesn't even feel that heavy sprawled across Gerard's chest.
Later, they stagger out of the storage room into the darkened shop high to find Mikey long gone. He’s left a crudely sketched rendering of the Joker leering up at them from a piece of printer paper on the front counter with a condom stapled to the corner by way of a note. Gerard mutters something about annoying little brothers but Frank folds the pictures and pockets it, condom and all because "Hey, you never know when you'll need an extra," before dragging him out of the shop.
Gerard stops him to lock up and thinks, as he fumbles with the keys, that he got none of his prep done but fuck it. His fellow geeks can wait for their new comics just once. Frank's fingers sliding into the waistband of his pants on the other hand, that requires his immediate attention. He checks the door one last time and then lets Frank pull him away from the strip mall and out into the night.