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The door shuts behind Frank with a hollow bang, and the hallway is totally abandoned. That's good. That's really, really good, because he cannot possibly deal with other people right now, like, at all. Other people bumping against him, or hearing their too-loud voices, or smelling their sweat, or anything at all. He feels like his skin is burning right off his body, he's at the boiling point, and he barely has time to get to the nearest bathroom, and once he does, he should be okay.

He's running past lockers and skidding across the linoleum flooring, down, down to the end of the corridor, where the weakest light is spilling through the frosted windows. When he finally ducks into the bathroom, he looks around for a second and runs into the nearest stall. It's smelly and sticky and the lock gets jammed when he tries to shut the door, but it'll do, it'll do.

The first touch of his hand on his own dick has him shouting out loud, that's how much of a relief it is, Jesus. Christ, he hopes no one heard that, but whatever, whatever, this feels - oh, so fucking good. It's not the usual feel-good of jerking off, it's like his entire body has been dunked into a vat of Vaseline when he's been itching forever. He fucking needs this. Right now.

He takes huge, gulping, dizzying breaths, his hand flying over his dick, and his orgasm rams into him, like he's been smashed into a wall head-first. He gets bent in half with the force of it, and he can't take a breath for a long time. Once he does, he comes up coughing and, Jesus, his hip is sore from where he'd banged it on the wall. Fucking hell.

He spits into the toilet and takes his hand off his spunked dick. He wipes it on his pants and leans against the wall for a minute, just breathing. Okay, so that was fast. But it usually is, at this point.

He lets himself calm down and put himself back together before walking out of the stall. The shadow on the floor is all the warning he gets - and then he sees him, someone else in the bathroom, sitting on a radiator by the farthest sink.

It's a new kid. He's got dirty long hair and bright red cheeks under his lowered eyelashes. They probably match Frank's face, but whatever. Frank tries to get himself riled up enough to get pissed, but he can't, his body feels too good, even though he knows it won't last. So what - he jerked off with someone else in the bathroom. Just because he sounded like a buffalo dying doesn't mean shit. It's natural, right?

He ignores the dude in the corner - what's he doing lurking in the corner, anyway? Oh. Frank spots the cigarette a second later - and walks to one of the sinks to wash his hands. He slams the soap dispenser a few times, but it's empty, of course, so he leans over to the next dispenser over and freezes. The guy's knee is directly in his line of sight, and something about the shape of it outlined through the stiff material of his uniform makes Frank's stomach flip over and - oh, fuck.

Fuck, there it goes again - that itchy-crawly feeling of his dick coming to life and the need spreading all across his body, from skin to meat to bones, he's vibrating.


He doesn't mean to say that out loud, but he hears it once it's out. The kid shifts and Frank follows the progress of his knee as he lowers himself to stand on the floor. Frank's frozen in place with his hand on the soap dispenser, and his eyes stuck looking at the guy's feet. He thinks he might vomit.

"You all right?"

The kid's voice is a bit rough from smoking, and Frank jerks his gaze up until he's looking him in the eye. He swallows and doesn't answer, but he does fall to his knees. What? What? His brain is screaming at him to get up, get out, what are you doing?, but his body's separated itself again. He's in full lizard-brain mode, and when he goes for the guy's belt, then his button, and then his zipper, the guy doesn't stop him. Frank thinks he might be frozen in shock, but so is Frank, really, apart from this crazy fucking need.

The first taste of the guy's half-hard dick and Frank moans so loud, his ears pop. Oh, fuck, oh, fuck, that feels good, it's been so long - and it feels even better when the guy's dick hardens right in Frank's mouth, the head filling out and spilling out that taste, fucking hell. Frank's shoulders hurt and he doesn't get why, at first, and then realizes that the dude whose dick he's sucking has him in a vise grip, like he can't even stand without help.

Frank moans louder and clutches the guy's hip with his left hand, while fumbling for his own zipper with his right, his dick throbbing, so fucking painful, he barely even wraps his hand around it before he's coming hard and hot all over it. He accidentally bites a little, and the guy shouts over him, but Frank doesn't think he's hurt.

"Oh, Jesus God, fuck, what are you - what are you - oh, fuck, oh God."

Frank is so blissed-out and turned on at the same time, all he can do is keep sucking the dick in his mouth until he feels the kick of the pulse, the tell-tale sign, and pulls off quickly, replacing his mouth with his slick hand.

Not quickly enough, because when the guy gasps and lets out a high keening noise, Frank forgets to duck and gets jizzed right in the face. If he had gotten hard again in time, he'd have come again, just from that. He slips out his tongue to taste the stuff on his lips, then finally looks up at the guy he just blew.

He's seriously pretty. And messed up - eyes totally black, cheeks flushed, mouth cracked and bitten, and he's wearing eyeliner. He's watching Frank like Frank is the messiah and the devil all rolled into one. Then he takes one hand off of Frank's shoulders and slowly wipes the come off of Frank's cheek.

Frank shudders and pants and Jesus, he can feel it, it's so close, it is so close. He just has to get through the day.

For a second, he blacks out from the pull of the coming moon on his skin, and when he comes to, he's been tucked away and more or less cleaned up. He's still on the floor, but now the guy's eye-level, their knees touching not at all casually.

"What's your name?"

"Frank." He doesn't mean to answer, but what the hell. It's not like the dude's gonna report him for surprising him with a blowjob, right? Fuck. What if he does? "You?"

"I'm Gerard. I'm new."

Frank snorts despite himself. "I know."

"Are you - you're not new, right?"

Just freaky. "Nope, this is my domain." He means the bathroom. The rest of the school can choke on his dick.

Gerard seems to get that, and laughs. His smile is wide and surprising. Frank bites his lip and can't stop from smiling back. "Good to meet you, Gerard," he says after a minute and finally struggles to his feet. He goes over to the sink and washes his hands with just water, which is gross, but it'll have to do. It takes him a while to get all the come off his fingers this way. He catches Gerard's reflection in the mirror. His smile is gone, and his eyes are wide. Frank turns around and leans with his ass on the sink, wiping his hands on his pants.

"I'll be out sick tomorrow, but if you want, we can have lunch together on Monday," he says, before he can stop himself. What the hell.

Instead of saying 'yes' or 'no,' Gerard asks, "How do you know you'll be out sick?"

Frank laughs kind of without humor and lets his head fall forward. "Getting that sickly feeling."




Frank looks up again. Gerard is still on the floor, like he's forgotten that it's cold and hard. Frank lifts his shoulders in question. "Okay what?"

"I'll have lunch with you." He sounds magnanimous, like he's doing Frank a huge favor. Frank snorts and shakes his head, pushing off the sink.

"All right, I guess. See you Monday."

He leaves Gerard kneeling on the floor, and right before the bathroom door shuts behind him, Frank throws over his shoulder, "Locker J15, fifth period. Be there." He has no idea why he just did that.

The itchy-crawling feeling doesn't come back until he's leaving for the day and a sharp new smell invades his nostrils. Gerard. Somewhere in the same corridor.

Great. Now Frank will never get his scent out.


By the time the bus drops him off, Frank is ready to crawl out of his skin. Which fits, considering he's only a couple of hours from doing just that. He takes the shortcut through the cemetery, running so hard, his bag is beating a permanent bruise into his thigh, but he's finally fucking free. It feels amazing.

For a moment, he just wants to keep going – forget running home, his brain whispers at him, keep running to the woods, just do it, it'll feel so good, just run until you can't run anymore - but he pushes the thought down, squashes it so hard, it almost hurts. He can't.

His skin is burning up under his uniform, his feet hurt from hitting the paved paths. He's almost, almost there. He just needs to get home and get locked up, and then it'll just be him and nothing – nothing else.

He whines as he skids down the bend, then runs through the opened iron gates and speeds down the narrow lane that leads to the house.

He's panting by the time he jiggles his keys in the lock and his mom is already there, grabbing his backpack and helping him out of his shirt.

"Take your slacks off here, Frankie, I can't afford another pair," she admonishes, and he stops, barely able to do it, and shucks them off. They get tangled and he goes sprawling on the floor. "Baby, your shoes are still on," Mom adds, like he hadn't noticed.

"Fuck fuck fuck."

Everything hurts, he can barely even feel it where he banged his knees because that pain's too easy. It all feels worse this time around and he really, seriously hopes it's not the start of some pattern or anything. Once he's managed to chuck both the shoes and the pants, he runs down the basement stairs, his toes slipping on the wood. Mom is on his tail, his pants still bundled in her arms, and she catches his cheek for a quick kiss.

"Stay safe, baby, I'll see you in the morning."

He squeezes her hand, and then he's falling through the iron doorway, which she clangs behind him and starts in on all the catches and locks.

He looks out the iron bars lining the basement window and settles on the hay in the corner. Now he's got nothing at all to distract him from the wait, or the quickly worsening pain running through his whole entire body.


There's so much pain, it blinds him through the change. He sees nothing but red, and feels nothing but the ripping of his bones, the tearing of his skin. His claws curl out the next second; his fur rips through his every pore. He howls and lunges for the bars at the window, and then there's nothing but deep and mindless horror of the wolf who's been caged into his own mind.

The darkness lasts forever.


When he comes to in the morning, he watches the sun leaking across the ceiling and the empty scratched-up walls. He takes a couple of careful breaths before he can tell if he's cracked any ribs this time around. It doesn't hurt to breathe, but when he moves his arms and legs, pain blooms out of every single pore and he just barely stops himself screaming.

He can't stop himself from sobbing a little as he attempts to lever himself up and then falls back down. Fuck, that really was worse than usual, what the hell. He settles back in against the hay stack and just breathes through it.

He doesn't hear his mom come down the set of stairs outside the door, the metal's too thick for that, but he hears it when she unlocks and unlatches the whole thing. She's wearing slippers, making quiet shuffling sounds, but even that feels like somebody's pounding on his head.

"Oh, honey," she breathes when she sees him and hurries down the last few steps.

He doesn't say anything as she wipes her cool hand across his sweaty, bloody forehead, then helps push him up and wraps him up in a blanket. He grits his teeth through the pain and breathes in and out as it recedes bit by bit. It's not fully gone by the time he's made it up the stairs and down the hall to his room, but it's less immediate, which is a small blessing.

Mom goes through the motions of getting him set up for the day. Remote on the nightstand, next to the Tylenol and two liter water bottle. Phone wedged in between his pillow and the wall. Cereal in a bowl on the tray, with a cup of milk next to it, so nothing gets soggy if he falls back asleep too soon. When he was first turned, it was like they'd traded the irregular but stupefyingly common illnesses for this monthly crap. Frank has never settled on what he prefers, really, and hasn't ask Mom, either. It's just what they do. He doesn't miss the bouts of pneumonia, though.

"Rest up now, okay? I'll call you on my break, see how you are."

Frank looks over at where she's leaning against the doorway, her hair in a slightly crazy halo around her head. He clears his throat. "Thanks, Mom. I'm good," he rasps.

"All right." She looks like she's battling her feet for a while, but then she finally leaves and he hears the car tear out of the driveway before he passes out again.


"Hey, Iero, you missed a quiz!"

Frank sighs. His math teacher is such a fucking tool. The dude is, like, fifty thousand years old, and he thinks he and Frank are buddies. Frank is a loser, but he's not loser enough to be buddies with the aging hippie who attempts to teach them pre-calc on a daily basis and fails ninety percent of the time.

Frank is tempted to just keep walking, but he knows Masters is pretty likely to run after him. How is this Frank's life, seriously.

"Hey, Mr. Masters, sorry," he calls out after swiveling back around and jogging up to the classroom where Masters is leaning against the door frame like he's James fucking Dean. James fucking Dean with scraggly long grey hair and a vest from the Ye Old West. "I was sick again, my mom wrote a note. Do you need to verify?"

Masters gives him that indulgent I know you were really sick with a hangover, but I'll let it slide this time, I've done worse things in my youth, ho ho ho smile and pats Frank on the arm.

"Not a problem, dude, I'll be giving a make-up after school tomorrow. Chapter Three – know it, love it."

Frank bites the inside of his cheek and nods before turning back around and heading towards his locker. Who the fuck gives make-ups on quizzes, he wants to know. Fucking Masters, fucking useless…

Frank sniffs the air when a scent hits him and brings him up short six lockers away. That new kid Gerard – the guy you blew, a little voice reminds him – is standing right by his locker, chewing on a ragged black-painted nail. He's got a messenger bag slung over his chest and Frank can just make out an Iron Maiden button on the strap. His dark hair is hanging in his face and he looks really…nervous. He smells really nervous, too.

Frank swears under his breath, looks around, and walks the last few steps that bring him to his locker.

"Uh, hey," he says when he's got his hand on the lock, twirling it into opening. "What's up?"

Gerard shrugs and sweeps hair out of his eyes. "You mentioned lunch, so, I don't know." He's kind of shifting and twitching beside Frank and Frank has a quick unhelpful flashback to how he looked when Frank was on his fucking knees in front of him three days ago, which he has to forcibly squash down. Thank God the moon is waning. He can't believe he fucking forgot about telling him they'd have lunch together. He can't believe he blew him in the school bathroom. What was he thinking?

"Right," he says finally, his face practically inside his locker, pretending like he's looking for something in there. It smells pretty rank – did someone slip him rotten meat again? Fucking meat-loving assholes – and he can only take so much before slamming the door closed. Which helps with the smell not at all, and also brings him face to hopeful face with Gerard.

"So, yeah?" Gerard asks and then his face breaks into a smile that immediately transforms him into a weird mix of little kid and fucking, just – beautiful guy. Frank takes a step back and watches Gerard's grin fade, leaving him looking simply awkward.

Frank fiddles with the strap of his bag and curses the fucking moon for bringing this on him in the first place. But of course, it wasn't entirely the fucking moon, so sure. Sure, he'll suck it the fuck up and have lunch with this kid today, and then maybe a few more times before he's dropped like a sack of rotten potatoes for being a fucking freak of nature. Why the fuck not, he's got nothing else on his social fucking agenda, and not like it'll be the first time.

"Sure. Let's go," he finally says and turns around to lead the way.


Walking through the cafeteria is a trial, as always. Even though he's through this month's change, he can still taste the disgusting smells in the back of his throat, and it's pretty fucking foul. Normally he'd just skip this place entirely and eat his salad under some tree out in the courtyard, but it's fucking pissing down outside, and it looks like Gerard didn't bring a lunch, anyway. He probably doesn't know better yet.

And speaking of Gerard, he is currently trailing Frank like a pale puppy, not engaging in conversation, but definitely present and kind of unrelenting. He's not yet a familiar presence, but already recognizable. Frank doesn't know if it's his own brain supplying the memories, or if Gerard is thinking about their little bathroom encounter, too, but there's an undercurrent of sexsexsex invading Frank's nostrils, beneath all the grease and meat and bodies.

He shakes it off as much as he can and plops down at the farthest table. His elbow instantly lands in something sticky, but whatever, at least they'll be out of the way here.

"Are you buying your lunch?" Gerard asks, hovering over Frank uncertainly.

"Nah, I bring my own. They've got, like, nothing vegetarian here worth eating at all," Frank answers, dragging out his tupperware.

"Oh. Okay." Gerard is glancing between Frank and the lunch line filled with rowdy assholes, and Frank can't really blame the dude for not wanting to join in, but he isn't about to throw himself under that particular bus, either. "Uhm. Okay," Gerard says again and visibly steels himself before trudging off to join in the fray.

Frank's almost done with his salad by the time Gerard returns with his lunch tray. It smells pretty vile, even if it's just chili. But it's the school chili, which means it's mostly goopy beef and overcooked beans swimming in some tomato sauce. Gerard doesn't look too thrilled with it, and Frank feels kind of bad for him.

"You should bring your own," he says. "It's really not worth the carnage, you know?"

Gerard nods miserably and tucks in, making a face. Frank can't help cracking up. "I have some pop-tarts for dessert, if you want," he offers before he can think better of it. Gerard looks up at him, spoon halfway to his mouth.

"You sure? I might need some, this shit is seriously grossing me out."

Frank can't exactly say "no" now, so he just rips into the package and slides out a pop-tart, putting it on the cleanest part of Gerard's tray he can find. "Knock yourself out."

After Gerard's eaten less than half of what's in his bowl, he pushes it away and they finish off their pop-tarts in similar silence. Frank hasn't eaten lunch with another person in a while, so he can't quite remember if it was always awkward, or if it's just him.

"So, uh," Gerard starts, then pauses. Maybe it's not just him. Frank waits him out, because he sort of has an idea where Gerard might want to lead the conversation, and he isn't sure if he really wants to go there. Ever. Jesus, he still can't believe he did that. "So, like, are you a senior?"

Frank mentally adjusts whatever he thought Gerard might ask, and kind of snorts. "I fucking wish. Junior. Still have almost two years at this place."

"Oh," Gerard nods.


"I'm a senior."

Frank sighs a little. "So how come you're just switching schools now? Did you move?"

Gerard shrugs. "Yeah, kind of."

Frank wonders how you can only "kind of" move but doesn't push it. Not like he's willing to answer any questions pretty much ever, so.

He looks around the cafeteria, and watches all these jerk-offs in their natural habitat. From his vantage point, he can see Heidi Mack rolling her eyes at her minions, and Hillman's got some poor freshman's face in his armpit, receiving a fucking noogie like it's the fucking 1950s, and the smells hanging around are enough to make Frank want to vomit up his own lunch, and seriously, it's like a Frank-particular circle of Hell.

He turns back at Gerard, who's watching him in a careful and weird sort of way and shakes out his shoulders. "Listen, wanna get out of here?"

"Fuck yes."

"Let's get the fuck out of here."


Frank shouldn't actually give up the one place he can get some peace and quiet around these parts to a dude he barely knows, but he does, anyway.

"But don't abuse the privilege, this is my spot, all right?" he warns and watches Gerard nod at him silently.

He jiggles the loose lock until it gives and slips through the doorway. At some point, this was probably a janitor's closet, but it's become kind of remote, ever since they added on that other huge-ass wing on the other side of the courtyard, so now it's just a tiny little room with a single light bulb to illuminate it, and Frank has made it his own.

It's kind of small and it plays on his claustrophobia in a big way, but it's better than being stuffed in a locker, and he'll take what he can get.

He slips in, nodding at Gerard to join him, then reaches over and pulls the door shut. Then, as a ta-da kind of moment, he turns on the light and slides down to the floor, using his jacket for a cushion.

"Cool," Gerard breathes, looking around. Frank settles back against the wall and watches him take it all in. "Shit, are these yours?" Gerard picks up last month's X-Men issue off the pile and starts flipping through it. Frank reaches over and snags the one underneath it.

"Yep. I've been keeping some here in case I forget to bring something with me, so this way I'll always have reading material." He's pretty proud of himself, and so far, nobody's discovered this place. He really should have thought a little more before bringing Gerard here, but at least he knows that if any of his stuff goes missing from here, it won't be because Gerard is a spiteful asshole. He seems genuinely excited about the comics.

"Wow, dude," Gerard says now, still looking through the issue. "Man, my little brother snagged this one and I totally forgot to get it back, shit. Uh, do you mind if I read it now?"

Frank shrugs. "Be my guest, just don't get any crap on it."

Gerard gives him a huge smile, looking like a little kid again, and settles in until he's comfortable – it, apparently, takes a while. He keeps shooting little hopeful glances in Frank's direction that Frank chooses to ignore for the time being. Instead, he takes out his cell to look at the time. They've got a good twenty minutes of lunch left, and now he doesn't have to make awkward conversation. Score. He takes out his iPod and scrolls through until he finds "Zero." It's a Pumpkins kind of hour.


"So, uh, I guess I'll see you?" Gerard says once they've climbed out of the closet, and Frank bites his lip and shrugs. It hadn't been, like, horrible or anything. It was actually kind of nice, just sharing space with someone like that, with no interruptions or much tenseness or anything. Gerard had maybe been kind of twitchy, but Frank is starting to think he's just a twitchy kind of guy. More importantly, Gerard hadn't demanded an explanation for the impromptu blowjob or, like, asked for another one, so Frank is maybe willing to cut him some slack.

"Sure. Tomorrow? Same time?"

Gerard shrugs on his bag and gives him a grin through his messed up hair. Dude seriously needs a wash. "Cool. See you then, man."

Frank gives him a quick nod and then flees. He's got French next period, and you do not mess with Monsieur Chevalier. Monsieur Chevalier wears horribly patterned ties with buttons on them that play "I Love Paris" and looks like that Mephistopheles guy they read about last year. Frank isn't afraid of too much shit, but Monsieur Chevalier really kind of fucking scares him.


The next day, Gerard does meet him in the same spot, and this time he's brown-bagged it. Frank can't help cracking up a bit at his winning expression, and he leads Gerard through the maze of hallways into his wing with a slightly lighter heart. Any day he doesn't have to fight through the jockstraps in the cafeteria is a better day than yesterday.

"So, how long have you been collecting these?" Gerard asks as soon as his ass hits the ground across from Frank.

Frank shrugs. "I don't know, a while, I guess. I mean, like. I've been buying them for a while, but only started bringing them here this year."

Gerard nods seriously. "Man, that is so cool. I always wanted to have a spot, like, all to myself in my old school, but it was crap. Mikey kept me company at lunch, though, last year."

"Mikey?" Frank had been thinking that they'd have another quiet lunch hour, but doesn't seem like it's going to happen.

"My kid brother," Gerard says, a smile quirking his lips a bit. "He's a sophomore now."

Frank frowns. "How come he's not here with you, then?"

Gerard's smile fades a little and he shrugs. "Just didn't work out." He doesn't say anything for a while, just rummages through his backpack for a long time. Frank wonders if it's the tuition. If it weren't for his dad's help, he wouldn't be able to afford this place, either, not like he's been dying for it, at any rate. But it's the better school, so his mom waded through a whole lot of crap to make it happen for him. He feels ungrateful every time he skips class, but some days are just unbearable. He's been getting vaguely decent grades, anyway, when he's bothered to put in the effort.

Gerard finally drags something out of his bag – it's like a Mary Poppins bag, seriously, Frank can tell from over here that there's a shitload of crap in it – and it looks like a sketchpad. Then out come markers and pens and shit, huh.

"You draw?" Frank asks as Gerard flips through a bunch of sketched-in pages to a clean one.

Gerard gives him a look from under his bangs. It's, like, calculating and unsure at the same time, and Frank can't actually hold it for long, it's like staring into fire, hurts your eyes after a while. "Yeah, a bit."

It doesn't just look like ‘a bit' to Frank, so he pushes himself forward to try and get a better look. He's only ever drawn, like, stick figures and bags of flaming poop, even though at some point in grade school, his art teacher told him he'd be really good if he "applied" himself. Frank didn't really care to "apply" himself at drawing, and then he got turned, anyway, and stopped even trying. "Can I see?"

Gerard tucks a strand of greasy hair behind his ear and, after throwing Frank another vaguely uncertain glance, turns the sketchbook towards him.

"Whoa, dude," Frank breathes. Okay, Gerard clearly doesn't draw ‘a bit.' The entire page looks like a comic book got thrown together, all panels into one – there's, like, vampires and The Team from Doom Patrol on there, too, and Frank flips page after page. Gerard's got style. It's all black inky lines and blood-red slashes. "This is super cool," Frank says, his finger hovering in the air over a really awesome Wolverine sketch. "Did you teach yourself?"

Gerard is actually blushing and radiating heat across from him. "Nah, I mean. My grandma taught me at first, then I started taking extra lessons and whatnot. I'm applying to art schools for next fall." He says the last sentence like he's planning a trip to the moon. Art school, shit. Frank hasn't even gotten much past finishing this year, forget getting past high school. For a second, he's so furiously jealous, he can't even breathe. Then he forces himself back onto his leash, and says, "Wow. That's awesome, dude," because it is. He shifts until he's sitting back down against the wall. "You're really talented."

Gerard smiles and ducks his head, his fingers already sketching something on a half-filled in page. "Thanks. I'm really excited, like – this one school? SVA? It's in the city, and it's all art, not just, like, a major. And they've got a comic program there."

"Wow, seriously?" The sounds way cooler than any other college Frank has ever heard of.

Gerard nods, never stopping sketching. "Well, it's illustration, but, like, that's part of it? And they teach you how to ink properly and plan out panels and – yeah, it's fucking sweet. I wanna, like, write and draw my own comic someday."

Frank thinks he might be staring. "Dude, that is so cool. Do you have, like, ideas?"

"Shit, I got a ton," Gerard says, and this time, he even pushes his sketchpad aside and sets down his marker. His eyes are practically glowing from excitement. "Like, I'm really interested in supernatural shit? Vampires and stuff, but not even that, it's more like – the idea of something totally freaky happening under the surface, and people not ever knowing it, you know? I just think how cool it'd be if the real world actually did have something like that, and I'm not even talking Superman or any shit like that, I'm talking something more interesting, different and, like, edgy, you know? Like X-Men, maybe, only grittier. I don't know. Or, like, something totally different but that occurs in nature and no one knows about it, you know?"

Frank does know that, unfortunately. He shifts around on the floor, trying not to think about how this is skating just a bit too close to home for comfort. "Uh, yeah?"

"So, I have this idea about how – oh."


Gerard's torrent of words completely dries up, and now he's staring at Frank and chewing on his lip. "I'm babbling, I forgot – I mean – you're probably not interested. Sorry." He breathes the last word, like he's been chastised, and Frank feels bad despite the fact that he didn't actually do anything.

"No, dude, you should totally tell me. Or, like, draw your ideas and shit." There, that's showing genuine interest, right?

Gerard scrunches up his nose. "You sure?"

Frank rolls his eyes, just to prove his point. "I'm sure. But I think we gotta go, dude, the bell's gonna ring in a minute."

After they stumble outside, Frank is about to sprint off to French when Gerard holds him back by his sleeve. Frank blinks at him. "Uh."

"Just, I don't know," Gerard says, letting go of Frank and toeing the ground. It makes him look like a little kid again, maybe. It's really pretty cute. "Thanks, I guess. That's a sweet place you've got here."

Frank shrugs like it's no big, even though it totally is, he knows. "No problem, dude. Show me those drawings, all right?"

He doesn't really wait for Gerard to answer, but whatever, he's got a class to get to and jocks to skip past.


The next morning brings nothing but pain and humiliation, and by the time Frank climbs out of the gym showers and manages to dress himself in the wet rags those assholes have made of his clothes, he just doesn't feel like sticking around for the rest. His mom would be disappointed, but what the fuck is he going to do, start sticking his own head in the toilet or throwing himself around in the showers before they even get to him?

No. And he's not going to spend half of his day shivering in wet clinging clothes. He's not going to forget the look on Dershowitz's face when he spied Frank's scars and bruises, either, and that's a different kind of humiliation.

"What, your daddy beat you at home, Iero? Pissed he got such a tiny faggot freakazoid for a son?"

Frank had almost wished for the full moon so that at least he could have lashed out in earnest, but he just wound up falling over a lot, because his body was still aching from the weekend. Fucking assholes.

He picks a wet wedgie out of his ass and shuffles out of the gym. He just has to grab his iPod from his locker – hard lessons learned from too many broken belongings every gym period – and he is fucking out of there.

He rounds the corner, and oh, crap. Gerard is at his locker, even though Frank is about fifteen minutes late for lunch. And while Frank is kind of excited he's got someone to talk to at school now, he's so not in the mood for it today. Fuck.

Gerard is sitting on the floor like he's been there a while, propped up against the wall of lockers, ear buds running down his front, cord leading into his messenger bag, sketching. He definitely hasn't heard Frank yet. Frank has a moment of just wanting to turn around and not even deal, but he's left important shit overnight in his locker before, and it's never ended well. And he can't afford another iPod. He sucks it up and shuffles forward. In the quiet of the hallway, all he can hear is the squeak of his shoes, the rustle of his wet pants, and the tinny sounds leaking from Gerard's headphones.

Frank doesn't know what to say when he finally reaches Gerard, so he just kind of nudges his butt with his foot. Gerard startles like Frank had thrown a bucket of water over him and gasps. For a split second, Frank's right back on that dirty bathroom floor, on his knees, Gerard panting over him. He shakes his head and looks down at Gerard now, attempting a grin and totally failing.

"Frank! Hey, you scared me, man," Gerard says, relief flooding his features. Then he takes Frank in and frowns. "Hey, what the – what happened to you, is it raining outside? Did you fall in the lake or something?"

Frank shrugs and taps his locker meaningfully. Gerard's eyebrows fly up and he mumbles something as he struggles to his feet. Frank doesn't answer, just flips through the lock and gets the door opened.

Gerard is hovering real close, so close, Frank can smell his stale clothes and sweat. It doesn't turn him off as much as it should, which is fucking annoying. He grabs his iPod off the shelf and shoulders his bag. It's ripping again, and he has to patch it up, and he fucking hates sewing this thing, the fabric's always too thick and he winds up stabbing himself with the needle, like, a thousand times before he manages to get it through even once.

"Frank?" Gerard's voice is tentative and unsure and Frank sighs. He wishes he didn't have to explain.

"Nothing happened. Just… Just school crap, you know." He leans out of the locker and slams the door shut. A passing janitor gives him a dirty look and Frank just barely manages to suppress flipping him the bird. Why is everybody such a fucking asshole, seriously.

"Sorry," Gerard offers. He sounds kind of confused. Well, Frank is confused, too.

He keeps watching the yellow metal door, wondering how they keep managing to shove crap in. There's barely room in the slats for, like, a baby finger to fit through. "Listen, sorry about lunch, but I'm bailing. Can't stay here like this." Baby finger, what the fuck.


"Yeah." Frank shrugs and finally turns towards Gerard. "So, I'll see you another time, I guess. You can, uh, you can use my room if you want," he offers without even checking with his brain first.

Gerard's chewing on his lip, his eyebrows drawn together in this tragic arc, and seriously, does this dude's every emotion show up directly on his face, or what? "Oh," he says, and adds, "Where are you going?"

Frank rolls his eyes. "I don't know, away from this place, okay?" He can't believe he's still here, either. And that he's about to skip out on French. Shit, Mom is going to murder him, he'd promised her to be better. Chevalier is just going to skin him alive. But his pants are sticking to him and making everything itch, and he's fucking freezing, and he hates everybody, and if he doesn't get out of here right now, he is going to lose the last shreds of his sanity. "So, I'll see you later, okay?"

He turns to go and even manages a few steps before Gerard is right there, tugging on his arm, catching up. "Hey, d'you – d'you mind if I come, too?"

Frank sighs and shakes his head. "Fine, Jesus, but, like, I got no cool place to go, I just wanted to leave." Gerard doesn't expect Frank to, like, entertain him or anything, right? Because Frank is not in an entertaining kind of mood right now.

"Dude, that's fine, I just. I mean. You don't mind, right?"

"Oh, Jesus, no, okay?" Frank snaps and instantly feels bad, because – Gerard didn't do anything. Sure, he's kind of clingy, but at least he fucking seems to like Frank, for now. That doesn't come along every day. "Sorry, just. Let's get the fuck out of here and we'll talk."

He doesn't quite mean that in a way it comes out, but then he catches a glimpse of Gerard's face and it's – weird. Gerard, like, lights up or something. Something about him gets excited, anyway, and Frank thinks, wait, wait, no, that's not what I meant.

But he doesn't say it, just leads Gerard out through the doors under the center staircase, the ones that are monitored by that hippie-ass stoner janitor that tends to turn a blind eye to Frank whenever he sees him leaving school grounds. He's there now, too, pretending like he doesn't see two weird students, one of whom is sopping wet, walking quickly away around the football field and smoking.

Frank slows down as soon as they hit the bend and shivers when the wind hits him, his lungs shriveling up. "So, what do you wanna do? I gotta change out of these clothes at some point, or I'll –" Actually, he'll nothing, he hasn't been sick in years, but some things stick with you, apparently. "It sucks, basically."

"Oh, yeah, sure. Uh, will your mom get mad that you cut classes?" Gerard asks curiously.

Frank shrugs. "Yeah. But she's working through some deadline tonight, I think, so she won't be home for a while." He's a dick for feeling happy about that, he knows she hates working late, but it's not like he's the one who sets the deadlines. He kicks at a plastic cup on the ground and can't believe he's about to say this. "Wanna come over? I have, like, coffee. Do you drink coffee? We've got coke, too, I think." He's got some pot stashed away, as well, but he thinks he's shared enough with Gerard already.

Gerard's grin is so wide, Frank thinks it'll blind him. "Awesome!"


It takes them a while to walk to Frank's, mostly because no busses run convenient to their place except for the school bus, but it's kind of worth it for the look on Gerard's face when he realizes that Frank's back yard is directly adjacent to a cemetery.

"Shit," he breathes and turns around. "Can we go there? Like, now?"

Frank cracks up. "Maybe. I gotta get out of these clothes, first."

He lets them in through the back door, because he doesn't want the neighbors seeing him home so early, just in case one decides to call his mom. It's weird, bringing somebody new here. They have people over, but they're adults, people Frank's mom knows, or his dad, when he visits with Melanie, or Frank's cousins, or something. Never anybody Frank has just met, just like that.

He tries to see the place from Gerard's perspective – the pictures on the wall, the faded carpet – but he doesn't really know what Gerard's perspective is yet. Frank just watches him take the place in, or at least the short run of the hallway before they get to Frank's room, and that's weird.

His room has really stayed the same for years, apart from the posters changing up, maybe, and the books on his shelves, so it almost feels like he's letting Gerard see his ten year old self. Looking at it like that, he gets the urge to shove him out the door and never let him back in again. But he doesn't, he just allows Gerard to shuffle in behind him, and drops his bag faster than he can say "thank God."

He's halfway through stripping off his clothes before he realizes what he's doing, and when he turns around, Gerard's frozen on the spot, his mouth half-opened like he's forgotten how it works.

"Uh," Frank says and looks down past his bruised chest to where his wet underwear is plastered to his hips and junk, his pants down around his calves. "Sorry, man, I just – really wanted to – I mean, this was seriously –"

Frank doesn't get to finish the sentence, because while he was busy stammering, Gerard has apparently managed to make himself move enough to cross the few steps between them and – what? what? - capture Frank's mouth in a kiss.

Gerard kisses him, lips soft and wet against Frank's, and Frank's lungs fill up with too much breath as he forgets to let it out, because Jesus, he's – it's –

Frank never expected his first kiss to happen on such a shitty fucking day.

He garbles something out, and kind of wants to push Gerard away, but his hands won't move and he's still standing there with his pants around his fucking ankles, and Gerard is still kissing him – not even touching him anywhere else, just kissing. Maybe not like they kiss in movies, but it's real soft and stupidly sweet, how does it taste so sweet? And it lasts for a million mind-spinning years before Frank's numb hands finally come up enough to push Gerard away.

"What the fuck," he says, watching Gerard's face, but Gerard's eyes are still closed, though his mouth is open. "Gerard, what the –"

Gerard opens his eyes and just looks at Frank through his eyelashes, but he doesn't answer. Instead, he sneaks a hand up to the small of Frank's back, and Frank can't stop the shudder that runs all the way up his spine, a painless kind of shiver that echoes the change, and his brain completely confuses the two because he just – falls against Gerard. He doesn't even mean to move, but when he does, Gerard catches him fast and hard and then they're kissing again, but this time Frank's mouth falls open and Gerard slips out his tongue and – fuck, fuck, fuck, Frank can't even – he feels like he's falling through a dark tunnel and will never come out the same again.

Gerard's tongue slides against his and Frank actually moans, moans, like he's never done anything more, never done anything worse. How does a fucking kiss do that to him? He has no idea, but he presses closer to Gerard, until his chest is leaving a wet imprint on Gerard's shirt, against his chest, and Gerard moans right back, the sound vibrating through Frank's skin, and he's clutching at Frank so hard, it actually hurts where his bruises are worst. Frank wants to curse and he wants to push away; he wants to get even closer, he wants to press his – hard, Jesus, he's hard - dick against Gerard's, but most of all, he wants out of his fucking pants.

"Ge – Gerard," he mumbles, and it doesn't really come out as anything resembling words, so he struggles until his mouth mostly belongs to him again, and says, louder, "Gerard, wait, wait, I –"

"What, was – hmm?" Gerard's eyes are heavy-lidded and unfocused, and it's stupidly hot, like, languid and weirdly seductive, which is…unexpected. Frank tears his gaze away and lurches until he's able to finally, fucking finally, get his feet out of his disgusting pants. He sees, while he's down there, that Gerard's beat-up Chucks have the Misfits skull drawn on them in Sharpie.

"Uh." Had he noticed that before? It's fucking awesome. "Those are awesome," he says before he can stop himself.


"Your, uh – the Misfits thing, dude, that's so badass," Frank says and finally struggles back up, using Gerard as a climbing tree. Everywhere he's touching him is warm and kind of, like, pulsating, even his palms when Frank brushes them with his fingers.

"Huh?" Gerard asks and Frank gets stuck watching his flushed face. He's already forgotten what they were talking about.

"Nothing, nothing, just –"

It feels like the waxing of the moon, this ridiculous pull, but it isn't, Frank knows that. But maybe it is, maybe he isn't actually this stupid, falling into something without thinking. It's – it's the middle of the day, he's in his room. Nothing about this feels real or normal. If he's ever in his room in the middle of the day not on a weekend, it means he's sick. It means he's crazy. In the dead of winter, it means he's about to change. But that's impossible.

He leans in minutely and in a flash, Gerard is there, meeting him, struggling against him a little bit, kissing him open-mouthed and hot. Frank can't even catch his breath – he's dizzy.

He has no idea what he's doing. He's getting the hang of the whole tongue-in-mouth thing, sure, but on a deeper level, he has no idea why he's letting Gerard do this to him, back him up until Frank's ass hits his desk and then – Frank feels his gasp torn out of his throat – grind against him, Gerard just as hard as Frank. That should feel familiar, but it doesn't, not when Gerard's got Frank's face between his sweaty palms, and his tongue sliding wetly in and out of Frank's mouth. Frank can't think like this, he's lightheaded from the lack of oxygen, from how much he wants to shove Gerard onto his floor and grind against him until they both come, and then do it all over again. He squeezes his hands around the hard edge of the desk and tries to breathe.

A car door slams right outside his window and Frank jerks out of Gerard's grasp so hard, Gerard stumbles back. When Frank plasters himself up against the window, he sees that it's not his mom's car and it's not his mom, but it could have been, and he's not – no. This is –

"You gotta go," he tells Gerard when he turns back around, feeling crazy, hating how shot his voice sounds. Gerard's eyes are wide and his mouth is red and slick and open in a wordless question. His hands are clutching empty air, looking listless, hanging there down by his sides. His shirt is still damp from the imprint of Frank's chest.

Frank bites his lip and repeats, "You gotta go, I'm sorry, I just – my mom and – you –"

He doesn't finish, crossing the few steps between them, aware of how fucking stupid he must look with his dick still hard in his wet, clinging underwear, bruised up all to shit, and Gerard's face is actually so tragic, it'd be heartbreaking if Frank wasn't so fucking lost himself.

Gerard finally breaks his own confused silence when Frank grabs his arms and tries to turn him bodily around. "Frank, I'm sorry, I didn't –"

"It's all right, I just can't – I can't do this, okay?"

Gerard, vaguely pliant until now, suddenly twists out of his grasp and Frank stops short at the sudden strength of it. "We don't… I'm sorry," Gerard mumbles, his gaze not quite darting up to Frank's face, and Frank's heart is beating so fast, he thinks it might crack his ribs. He's totally at sea. He doesn't even know if he's sorry. "We can, like. Still hang out, right?" Gerard asks and finally settles his gaze on Frank's.

Which. Yeah. They probably can. Frank knows he's fucked this whole thing up himself, he's the cause of it, he's the one who fucking got down on his knees in front of Gerard before he ever even knew his name, but. He fucking likes this guy, he's as cool a person as Frank's going to meet around these parts. He's just – he doesn't –

"Sure. Totally," he nods. He's so aware of being nearly naked, and for a second he thinks he might laugh. What the fuck has happened to his life, anyway? When he looks down, he sees that Gerard is still kind of hard in his pants, watching Frank right back. Frank bites the inside of his cheek and, fighting the urge to cover up, looks away.

"Cool. Okay," Gerard answers and Frank watches him pick up his own bag from where he'd dropped it on the floor earlier. Gerard shoulders it and looks at Frank uncertainly. Frank knows it's up to him when and where they actually ‘hang out', but he doesn't think it can be here and now.

"See you at school, right?" he asks, finally looking him in the eye, and Gerard nods after a beat, then shuffles out without another word. Frank doesn't see him out, but he does watch him and his slumped shoulders through his bedroom window, where Gerard takes the shortcut through the cemetery.

Frank turns away, slides the blinds closed, and fucking finally slips out of his wet briefs. He flops down on top of the covers in sheer relief and then jerks off fast and hard, trying not to think about anything at all.

It doesn't really work, and he spends a pretty embarrassingly long time remembering exactly how it felt to have Gerard's tongue in his mouth, and how it felt to touch it with his own.


He has no idea what to expect from the next day. This week has kind of dragged by and simultaneously flown, and it's only fucking Thursday, so there's not even the relief of the weekend to look forward to today. He tries to blend in with the streaming crowds and avoid any of the assholes who love fucking with his life as he walks between classes, which works pretty well until fucking Study Hall. But spit balls and notes with such inventive scribbles like ‘SUCK DICK FAGGOT' and ‘FOR A GOOD TIME OF TAKING IT UP THE ASS CALL FRANK IERO' are a breeze compared with being thrown around the locker room, so whatever, he'll take it.

What has his heart hammering kind of hard, though, is the minute it takes to walk from the classroom in the K building to his locker at J, and he can't even process the disappointment fully before his stomach sinks cold and fast down into his toes. Gerard's not there.

Fuck. Frank hangs down his head and shuffles up to his locker, bumping against the streaming crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, maybe he's running late or something. But in the thirty seconds it takes Frank to grab his lunch and exchange Western Lit for French and Physics, he realizes that Gerard didn't show on purpose. And he probably won't, now, because Frank is a fucking asshole jerk who can't even hold onto a friend for more than three fucking days. What the fuck did he think was going to change, anyway?

He slams the locker closed and scowls his way outside. At least it's a really warm day, with the sun out. He puts on Henry Rollins and closes his eyes, slumping against the oak that's been in the courtyard since the olden times. He doesn't feel like eating, so he lets the birds pick at his lunch.


"Frankie, baby, you okay?" his mom asks when he's helping her put dinner together kind of half-assedly, he will admit, shucking ear after ear from her endless supply of corn.

"Whatever," he shrugs, ‘cause whatever. It was like there was a glimmer of hope that life would maybe gain some kind of luster, but that lasted for a full twenty seconds this time before being snatched away. Fucking typical.

"Don't ‘whatever' me, young man," Mom frowns, the knife in her hand stilling high over the carrots she's chopping. Frank eyes it a bit warily. She's got a mean streak on her sometimes that he never knows when to expect. "Is something the matter in school?"

Ha. "You know," he shrugs again, gently setting her hand down so she can start up on the carrots and stop scaring him with that knife. "The usual, I guess." He shucks the corn with extra relish this time, getting all the little damp hairs stuck around his fingers and trying to wipe them on a dishcloth when they wrap all around his skin and refuse to budge. Gross.

She hums in reply and they continue their vegetable dealings in silence. She breaks it a minute later.

"I heard from Marge Dewees, by the way," she drops airily, like if she does it real casual, Frank won't remember what it was like to have an actual friend and how much it fucking sucks that that friend was a goddamn Army brat that Frank hasn't seen in nearly six months now. He keeps shucking the corn. "She says they're settling down in Houston all right, but Jimmy's having a bit of a hard time adjusting with the local kids."

No fucking kidding. Probably not a lot of call for vaguely faggoty stoner dudes down at a Houston army base, Frank figures. Then he randomly thinks about how Jimmy had taught him all about the art of the cotton-mouth blowjob and the proper application of eyeliner without random eyeball stabbings. Man, Frank fucking misses that kid.

"Do you ever write to him, Frankie?" She's prying. She fucking knows. Probably not about the occasional blowjobs or the pot or the booze, but the stupid whine in Frank's chest getting worse and worse every time he sees the happy-go-lucky 2.5 kid, white-picket-fence family breezing in and out of the Dewees's old house up the street.

"Yeah, sometimes." He'll email Jimmy a YouTube video sometimes and sometimes he'll get an .mp3 of a really good Cure cover or whatever back, but it's just not the same over the internet. And now he's got no one to smoke up with, either, which is a shame because he loves getting stoned, and he fucking hates doing it alone.

"Well, that's good," she says, nodding beside him. "You don't want to lose that kind of friendship."

Frank tears off another husk off another ear of corn and tries to score it across the kitchen right into the trash. He totally fails, of course, and gets a whole other kind of frown in return. He wants to burn through a whole fucking carton of cigarettes, seriously.


"Hey, Frank."

Frank's heart leaps into his throat, but he swallows the lump down and shrugs all cool and nonchalant, tugging his locker open.

"Hey, Gerard. What's up?" Where were you yesterday?, he wants to ask, but he's not a girl, whatever. None of his business. Maybe Gerard is a fucking middle-of-the-moon-cycle werewolf, who the fuck knows. Maybe he's a mutant who needed to recharge. Maybe he was just busy.

Gerard runs a hand through his snarled-up hair, which looks and smells a whole lot cleaner today than it's ever done so far, and shrugs. "Lunch?"

So, it sounds like a routine now, maybe. Which is just fine with Frank. He definitely doesn't want to ask about the hiccup in the routine yesterday, so he hits the "reset" button on his brain that magically erases things like worry and resentment and shit, and smiles a real big smile when he finally turns to look Gerard in the eye. "Awesome."

When Gerard smiles right back, kind of unslumping around his shoulders and entire spine, Frank's stomach buzzes like it didn't get the "no feelings" memo from his brain.

Lunch. Right. Okay.


Frank's almost through the gates of the school and closer to freedom when he hears a stomping of feet behind him that's definitely headed in his direction, and steels himself. Jesus fucking Christ, don't those assholes have anything better to do? But the hit he's expecting doesn't come, and all he sees out of his periphery is a slouchy figure that transforms into Gerard when Frank turns to look.

Gerard gives him a shy smile, his bag almost sliding off his shoulder. "Hey."

Frank ignores the jump in his belly and nods at him. "Yo."

"So, like, do you like horror?"

Frank fucking loves horror, as long as it's got no fucking Wolfman, but he's got no idea why the non-sequitor. "Duh. Why?"

"Well, just, Mikey and me are having, like, a marathon? Like a reward for getting through the week and crap, so I thought – I mean – wanna come over? We're getting pizza and Mikey's got a quart of vodka, I think. We could make screwdrivers."

Frank stopped really paying attention somewhere in the middle, because even just the first part of that sounded so desperately like exactly what he wanted to be doing with his life tonight. Wow, shit, fuck, he is so fucking screwed. For a long moment, he can feel himself just staring at Gerard.

"Uh, I mean, yeah, it sounds pretty lame, huh," Gerard mumbles, dropping his head forward and kicking at the pebbles in the gravel. "Whatever, I guess, see you Monday."

"Wait, no! I mean." Frank stops and drops the hand he hadn't even realized had grabbed at Gerard's jacket. Whoops. "I really want to, man, it sounds awesome," he says, firmly wrapping his hand around the strap of his bag and keeping it there. "Just. Let me ask my mom?" God, he is so fucking lame, but she knows he doesn't go anywhere on the weekends without telling her.

Gerard's face clears and his cheeks kind of pink up, in that way that brings back, in full Technicolor, how he'd looked last week. It feels like a million years ago. It always does, with the change. Gerard just nods and watches Frank expectantly.

Oh, right. He's calling his mom.

He digs out his cell and speed-dials the last-called number. Seriously, he is goddamn lame. While it's ringing, he tries to act a lot cooler than he feels, and it's stupidly awkward, just standing there in the middle of the fucking school sidewalk, with Gerard fiddling with his own bag strap and occasionally catching Frank's eye and looking away again. Maybe Frank shouldn't actually be worrying about his own lameness.

His mom asks him a few pointed questions, then says, "Okay, Frankie. Where does this Gerard live?"

"Uh, hang on. Gerard? What's your address?"

Gerard's eyes widen like he never in a million years expected the question. "Oh! Right. Uh, we're at 70 Maple Ave, it's, like, right across from that pizza place? With the gangsters on the wall?"

Frank grins and repeats, "70 Maple."

"Okay. I don't know if I can pick you up tonight, though, I'm pretty tired, baby."

"That's all right, I'll get a bus or walk or something."

"Not too late, all right? Call me if anything comes up. Have fun, honey." She adds that last bit like it's no big, but he can hear her being just a little wobbly under all that mom bravado. He mentally rolls his eyes and tells her, "Sure, thanks, Mom."

"Cool!" Gerard says as soon as Frank's flipped the phone shut. "It's not, like, a long walk, I don't think. You mind?"

Frank doesn't even give a fuck. He feels like a real fucking teenager for once, and suppresses everything in his brain that's screaming at him that he's anything but.


The first thing that hits Frank when they walk through Gerard's door is all the smoke. Whoa, holy crap. The entire house is dark and hazy with it, even though it looked like a totally normal house from the outside.

Then, he notices a whole lot of potpourri, and past all the haze and the dark and dead flowers, there is an entire cabinet-full of creepy dolls. Frank goes through a quick moment of regret in even coming over, because he maybe hasn't heard of any newcomer serial killers in the area, but that doesn't mean they're not biding their time.

But when he turns back to look at Gerard, who's just throwing the lock shut, he relaxes at his sheepish expression.

"Uh, yeah, sorry about the dolls and shit. My mom has this, like, thing for doll collections. I dunno." Gerard shrugs, looking supremely embarrassed, and Frank cracks up.

"Dude, whatever, it's awesome. I mean, creepy, but what am I here for, right? This is, like, a preview."

Gerard's face kind of clears at that and he smiles back. "Cool, okay. I'm down in the basement, and I think Mikey's probably almost home."

Frank follows him through a quick maze of dark, but doll-free hallways and wonders if anybody else is home. Gerard hasn't mentioned his family's, like, make-up, and so far all Frank knows is there's a kid brother named Mikey, a creepy-doll collecting mom, and an artist grandma.

"So, is it you guys and your mom?" He doesn't mean to ask it like it's fact, it's just Frank's kind of used to having to deal with a single parental figure on a regular basis.

Gerard's shoulders twitch in a shrug as they descend the basement stairs. "My dad, too, he's off on a business trip, and my grandparents are down the street, but they're over here a lot, so."

"Cool." It does sound cool. Gerard's got a whole, well, family. Which Frank does, too – not like his dad is so far away. But he doesn't see him as often as he'd like, and Melanie's nice, but she's no Frank's mom.

If the upstairs looked like something out of a Tom Waits song, the basement looks exactly like what Frank might have predicted, had he actually thought about it. It's a pig sty, with, like, sketch pads and dirty clothes and pens and markers strewn everywhere, and it smells really kind of bad. A damp-looking towel hangs over a chair (Frank thinks it might be a chair) and it gives off a similar smell that Gerard's hair did this morning. Frank bites his lip to keep from laughing, because wow, his mom would have him hanged for this crap. She hates wet towels on furniture, never mind the rest.

Gerard doesn't apologize for the mess like he did for the creepy dolls. He just drops his bag, plops down on his bed, and shoves a bunch of crap down onto the floor, which Frank takes as an invitation to sit in the vacated space. Which he does kind of gingerly, because who the hell knows what's still on the bed. The basement's got a tiny window in one wall, but the sun's pretty much setting, leaving the room vaguely dark.

"So, you guys didn't just move here, right?" Frank asks, settling back against the wall, because it looks like this room's been in this state for a while. It's kind of cool and lived-in, though, and he can tell Gerard's more relaxed in here than he ever is at school.

Gerard chews on his thumbnail as he answers. "Yeah, it's, like, a family home? My mom grew up here, and then bought it from my grandma when it got too much for them to, like, take care of it. So, I grew up here."

"Huh. Cool," he says.

Yeah, this is not Frank's basement. He looks around again, mindlessly rubbing the bedclothes on Gerard's bed, and feels a knot form itself in the pit of his stomach. It's not the creepy dolls, either, it's more like, what the fuck is he doing here? This is great and all, but why is he venturing down this lane, when he knows exactly how it ends?

He tries to brush the anxiety off, and almost manages to while Gerard rummages around his bedside table, grabbing a pack of smokes and a lighter, and then there's some kind of stumbling down the stairs and a skinny kid with epically bad scene hair enters the room and freezes when he spots Frank.

For a split-second, their eyes meet and Frank thinks it's painfully obvious that Frank isn't just another high school kid, but he realizes it's ridiculous, he doesn't exactly have "I'm a werewolf, ask me how I can have you for dinner" stamped on his chest or forehead or anything. And then there's more stumbling, and raised voices as two other guys follow close on the skinny kid's heels.

Gerard's sitting up and breaking into a smile in an instant. "Mikey, dude, you brought ‘em! Awesome!" His socked feet are nudging Frank's thigh and Frank moves his legs without even thinking about it.

Mikey is the skinny kid, he gathers, and he does kind of look like Gerard – if Gerard spent a few months on a hunger strike and tried and failed to bleach streaks into his hair. Mikey throws a lopsided, pursed grin in Frank's direction, and Frank nods, not knowing what to say yet.

"Yeah," Mikey finally says, and whoa, his voice is deeper than Frank would have expected. It's kind of cool. "Picked them up at Dellario's. They're paying for pizza."

"Like fuck we are, Mikeyway," says the tall blond dude, nudging his way past Mikey and plopping down onto the floor, back up against the bed. "I'm Bob," he tells Frank, craning his neck and actually, like, extending his hand for a shake.

"Uh, I'm Frank," Frank answers, shaking the dude's hand. "Good to meet you."

The other kid brays a high-pitched kind of laugh and shakes his head. His hair is a massive crazy mop on top and all over his head, and it shakes as he laughs and lowers himself down next to Bob. "You're such a fucking gentleman, Bryar. Hey," he says, turning up to Frank. "I'm Ray. You don't have to shake my hand, it's cool."

Frank shrugs but plays along, clutching Gerard's comforter in his sweaty fist. "Sounds good."

Mikey is already putting a DVD into the player, kind of ignoring everybody else. Frank looks over at where Gerard has shaken out the smokes and winds up throwing him a hopeful look without even meaning to. Gerard just gives him a small smile along with the cigarette, and for just one moment, it feels like Frank and he are the only people in the room. Frank's fingers brush Gerard's and he inadvertently smiles back at that nudge. Gerard hands him a lighter and Frank clicks it into life, inhaling deeply. The knot in his stomach is not so much loosening as changing shape, maybe. He's pretty set on ignoring it.

"So, what's on the menu?" Bob asks, picking around the floor with some purpose, apparently, because he comes out with a crumpled and stained Angelina's Pizza menu.

"Pepperoni," Ray immediately pipes up, as Mikey says, "Sausage."

"Cheese," Gerard counters. "Frank's vegetarian."

Ray throws him a startled look, but Frank only notices out of the corner of his eye, because he's too busy looking at Gerard and trying to find his voice somewhere. "Oh, dude, that's fine, I don't – I can, like, get something else."

Gerard just shrugs, his smoke dangling from the corner of his mouth. "I want cheese, too, and Mikey likes it. Right, Mikey?"

Mikey shrugs eloquently and squeezes himself into the narrow space between Gerard and the bedside table. Gerard shifts around to give him more room, which brings his toes right back to Frank's thigh. Frank forgets to move away. "Whatever," Mikey says. "I'll eat pineapple, though."

Everybody else groans and mock-barfs.

"Fine, cheese it is," Bob says after Frank's stomach has stopped turning at the pineapple thought. "Toro, split the wings?"

Ray high-fives him and settles back against the bed, mollified. Frank looks at Gerard out of the corner of his eye and pretends not to see him watching Frank back from under his bangs.


The booze doesn't come out until after the pizza gets delivered. Frank tries to hand either Gerard or Mikey some cash, which admittedly isn't much, but Gerard just waves him off and Mikey pretends he didn't see it at all. Ray and Bob are too busy fighting over the wings to accept his cash. Frank stuffs it back in his pocket and grumbles, "Fine. Next time, I'm bringing pot and we'll call it even."

Gerard's eyes grow huge and Mikey's eyebrow quirks up. "Dude, deal," he says and raises his hand for a fist-bump. Frank cracks up and bumps him back. What a weirdo, he thinks, smiling.

Orange juice materializes from somewhere, and soon enough, Frank is carefully sniffing the drink in his red Solo cup. Mikey went pretty heavy on the vodka and light on the mixer, but Frank isn't gonna complain, even though it's pretty gross to be drinking warm vodka mixed in with even warmer OJ.

It hits him pretty soon after The Piranha credits begin to roll over the bloody water, because apparently, when Gerard said "horror," he'd meant "70's horror-lite," which is just fine with Frank. He's too busy blinking at how fast the fucking vodka is getting to him, but of course, his tolerance is for shit now. He and Jimmy used to drink a whole lot of PBR, which is piss water in the best of circumstances. Frank can never score any booze himself, because he looks about twelve, but Jimmy always managed to charm his way into shifty clerks selling him shit on the sly. And he always looked older.

"Dude, that chick get eaten yet?" Mikey asks through the pizza slice hanging from his mouth.

"I think so, the water's all red," Gerard answers, and from somewhere around their feet, Bob's quiet voice pops up. "Assholes, are you not paying attention? It's been, like, five minutes, what the fuck are you doing up there, cuddling?"

Frank snorts into his drink. Gerard and Mikey are kind of cuddling, in a totally oblivious way. But Gerard's toes are also kind of busy digging a dent in Frank's thigh at the same time, and he's sweating all down that side, trying stupidly hard not to move away and make it obvious, or move even closer and make it even more obvious. He's stuck in some tug-of-war land where his every instinct battles his higher senses. He chugs the drink down faster than he probably should, but pretty soon, he's feeling a lot calmer.

And buzzier.

The movie is ridiculous and boring, but also kind of hilarious. "This movie is fucking ridiculous," he says. "And boring. But, like, hilarious."

Gerard giggles next to him. "I know, right? It's like the decided to take Jaws and get rid of, like, all the tension and Richard Dreyfuss and shit."

Ray reaches back and swats at Gerard's toes, hitting Frank's thigh in the process. "Shut the fuck up, assholes, I'm watching."

"Well, it fucking sucks, let's change it." Gerard swats Ray's hand back with his toes and then moves his feet until he's cross-legged. Frank's thigh practically vibrates with the retreat of pressure. "Didn't you have another DVD, Mikey?"

Mikey shrugs. "I thought this looked cooler than it is. I'll change it." He clambers up off the bed and steps on, like, every available body part Bob has to offer, causing Bob to curse at him, and Frank to snort at them both. He catches Gerard's eye totally by accident, and his stomach rolls uncomfortably at the way Gerard's eyes shift in the blue of the TV. Frank picks his cup back from between his legs and chugs a disgusting warm sip of it as his eyes water.

Mikey winds up sitting down next to Frank after he's put in the DVD, and Frank zones out on the warmth and the comfort of the familiar scenes on the screen and the vodka, too. He's vaguely aware of shifting bodies as the DVD menu clicks into life, but he doesn't really feel anything much until Bob and Ray begin some sort of an argument that winds up with Bob tugging on Ray's hair so much, Ray yelps and hits the bed with his head so hard, he kind of wakes Frank out of his mollified stupor.

"Fuck you, Bob, that's fighting dirty!"

"It's fighting pretty clean, if your opinion is so stupid."

"That doesn't even make any fucking sense!"

When Frank looks over at Gerard, Gerard is actually just a few inches away, somehow having made himself comfortable right next to Frank, and his knee's been digging a hole in Frank's thigh for a while. Frank becomes aware of that, as well as how close Gerard is, and how restless his fingers are next to Frank's hand, like he's drawing without a pen and paper. Frank attempts to sit up and move away, but Mikey's got him planted pretty firmly between the two of them and Frank can only try to ignore how much of Gerard he can smell and focus on the screen.

Where a wolf is busy howling at the fucking moon and everything in him recoils at once. He jerks up and looks around, and everybody is just busy staring at the screen, just as zoned out as he himself had been, like, only ten seconds ago.

He looks back at the screen and feels his jaw lock up tight. How – how can they all just sit there, watching this, like it's no big deal at all? His skin prickles with the sudden heat of panic, and he jerks his hand at the feel of Gerard's fingers brushing his own, tentatively but with some definite purpose. Frank is up and moving before he can even think about it.

Bob and Ray both look up at him as he almost falls onto the floor, and the brothers are both watching him, even Mikey shocked into a gaze as big as Gerard's.

"Frank?" It's Ray who asks, but Frank can see it reflected on Gerard's face, too, and he feels himself making an apologetic face. He just. He can't. He can't, what was he even thinking?

"Uh, sorry, I gotta run, actually? My mom, and – yeah, sorry, I'll, uh, I'll see you on Monday, Gerard," he babbles, too loudly, then looks around for his bag in a panic until he spots and shoulders it. "Bye!"

He doesn't wait for a reply, just legs it out of there as fast as he can. Which isn't fast at all, because his tolerance is shot all to hell, so he stumbles against the walls of the stairs and loses his way in the short maze of dark hallways. He's got no idea what time it is, even though it's probably not even late at all, or how he's going to get home, even though he doesn't actually care, but he knows that he can't stay there in the stale smoke, with the guys who in another life could totally have become his friends, but never will now, because Frank's life is for shit.


Gerard finds him on Monday despite Frank's best attempts at hiding. After his shitty-ass weekend filled with continuous and humiliating replays of Things He Could Have Done Differently On Friday Night, Frank wants nothing more than to be left alone, but there Gerard is, sitting cozy by Frank's closet.

Frank curses under his breath and slows to a crawl, but it's only a few steps to bring him up to Gerard, slumped against the closet door, sketchpad looking abandoned on his lap.

Gerard just watches him and doesn't make any attempts to get up or anything. Frank has no idea what he wants – to demand what the fuck happened, to tell Frank he's a hopeless loser, or what?


Gerard's eyebrows twitch together and he slowly unfolds, slightly awkward as he clamors up, losing his sketchbook along the way. It's definitely less awkward once he's up, because he's a lot closer now, really too close, and he's looking down at Frank with a concerned look that makes Frank's mom's concerned looks seem disinterested in comparison.

"Why'd you run away?" Gerard asks, and his voice is low and, like, intimate. His breath is kind of sour and warm and Frank feels it scatter down all the way down to his toes. He steps away quickly.

"I didn't fucking run," he shrugs, except he totally fucking did. "I just. I had to get home, that's all."

Gerard's face is a study in cynicism as he chews his lip, but then he shrugs and steps away. "Okay. Wanna have lunch?"

Frank can't help cracking up a bit, because sure, why not. Gerard isn't exactly giving him a choice in the matter, being all up in his space like that. Frank shakes his head as he rattles the lock, his belly roiling in something akin to relief. "C'mon in."

Gerard fumbles to pick up his sketchbook and bag and slips in after Frank. Once they're settled in on the floor, Frank is feeling almost comfortable again, because lunch in this closet is a hell of a lot safer than accidental stripping in his room or drunken almost-slumber parties at Gerard's.

"So, uh, you should, like, pick a movie next time. And we should plan in advance. The guys totally want to have another viewing thing with you, but maybe you could, like, stay?" Gerard is mumbling all of it not at Frank but at his sketchbook, his pencil scratching softly over the page, and Frank freezes.

The closet seems even narrower with another person in there, and hotter, too. His collar is rubbing at his neck and he tugs on it, but it's like trying to loosen iron. He doesn't answer and he can sort of feel the silence extending into a million years, even though it's probably barely even a minute. Gerard doesn't look at him, but Frank can practically see his ears twitching under all that hair.

He knows he has to answer. It's just another get-together, not even a party or anything, what the fuck is the big deal, he tries to tell himself, except that he knows. And Gerard doesn't.

And then he thinks back to his weekend of lying around on his bed, watching the ceiling fan swirl and counting the shadows, fucking around on his guitar and avoiding his mom's questioning looks. And he thinks about all the past weekends, too, the ones where he'd done all his homework out of desperation, and trolled through every porn site he could find until he reached what felt like the end of the internet. And he fucking hates those porn sites.

"Sure, I'll, uhm. I'll think about it," he finally answers.

Gerard just nods, and in the shadows of their space, Frank spots the tiny way in which Gerard's lips lift at his answer.