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All The Friends You Need

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The thing about Siska isn’t that he’s good looking. Andy’s new band is full of good looking people, Siska is hardly alone in that. And it isn’t just that he’s fun to be around. If Andy’s going to be honest with himself, he thinks that, of all of them, Tom is the type of person he’d usually be most drawn to spend time with, under other circumstances. It isn’t just Sisky’s tiny wrists or crazy hair or the totally competent way he handles his bass. It isn’t even that weird, half physical and half seemingly psychic rapport that comes of being on stage together in perfect synch-- the way he and Sisky seem to work together so well already, to make up the rhythm section.

No, Andy could deal with all of that, no problem. The thing he’s having trouble with is the way Siska smells.

It isn’t the on-the-road, haven’t-showered-in-a-week smell that just goes hand in hand with van travel (though that’s there, too. Andy isn’t too smitten to overlook that, and even if he wanted to, the heightened senses have all kind of downsides, one of which is not letting him gloss over things like that). The problem is that Siska smells like sunshine and Andy can’t deal with that. Dan would laugh himself sick if he told him, but there are some things that Dan just doesn’t get, twin or not, and most things having to do with Andy’s ‘genetic abnormality’ (as mom always called it) fall under that category. Dan would laugh, but only because Dan wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s true.

Sisky is sixteen and he smells like sunshine and Andy is so very fucked.

After knowing the Butcher for a few weeks, now, Sisky feels pretty confident in saying that there’s something weird about him. He feels bad for even thinking it, because the Butcher is awesome, and he’s totally come through for them when they needed him, but Sisky can’t help but feel like there’s something a little odd about him. He tries to tell Bill about it, but the response he gets is far from satisfactory. Sure, Sisky wasn’t exactly expecting shocked agreement, but he was hoping for something a bit more confidence-inspiring than being laughed at. And the, “Some day, young Adam, you’ll figure out a better way to deal with crushes than with suspicion,” is irritating, too.

Sisky just wants to know why he’s the only one who thinks it’s weird that the Butcher’s only condition on joining their band was that he had to have a couple of hours to himself on the night of each full moon.

“Dude, it’s probably some kind of pagan woodland ritual,” Tom says, but he sounds like he’s joking. Sisky’s willing to forgive him for that, since Tom doesn’t really know him that well yet. If he did, he’d totally know better than to dismiss Sisky’s concerns like that—he’s a pretty laid-back guy. He doesn’t get all worked-up over just anything. Plus, Tom and the Butcher joined the band at the same time. They’re friends. Allies in being the newcomers and learning the songs together. Friends don’t suspect friends of being werewolves. Sisky wonders what that makes him.

Sisky understands why Bill would rather not delve into what’s weird about the Butcher--they found a drummer when they needed one, and Andy is a fucking awesome drummer. Bill is probably trying pretty hard not to think much farther than that, wanting this to work so badly that he is willing to overlook a few oddities. Sisky gets it; this band is Bill’s baby, his ticket out of folding clothes for a living and way too many hours spent at IHOP. Sisky had loved the long afternoons when they’d take over a booth and not leave for hours, but he was also in high school at the time--he can see how it might not have held onto its appeal for the rest of his life.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wonders if maybe this fixation on what the Butcher might be hiding doesn’t have something to do with that. Sisky doesn’t regret leaving school--the band is what he wants, and he’s pretty sure it’s what he’s always going to want. He’s never found a better feeling than performing and he doesn’t expect to. That time between shows, though, those hours in the van spent humming half-forgotten songs and trying not to fall asleep on Mike because he will hit you—those hours feel almost like suspended animation. Like Sisky may be living the life he wants, but there’s still something missing sometimes. Sisky has done his best to be in a state of constant motion since the day he sat bouncing next to Jason in his seat on a plane to Chicago and he realized that as much as he was probably going to grow to love it there, he would never again be as sun-drenched as he had been his whole childhood. There are certain kinds of brightness that can’t be recaptured, even by returning to the place where you first felt them. These days between shows, even though the miles may fly past, until Sisky’s under that stage lights again, he feels stuck in one place. It makes him twitchy sometimes.

The van rolls past unfamiliar landmarks and Sisky elbows Tom in the shoulder climbing back a row to squeeze himself between Bill and the window in the weak afternoon sunshine. Sisky knows Bill’s secrets, and that makes this spot feel safest, even as they pass through an entire state full of strangers. He lets his gaze slip forward to where the Butcher’s riding shotgun, talking with his hands, and even as he falls asleep he feels more in motion than he has since last night’s show, straining his ears to try to catch the words instead of just drifting off into the cadence.

Sisky is trying to kill him. Andy can tell, because every time he turns around, Sisky is there. He’s there and he wants company scoping out the town or he wants to go over a particular bridge together to make sure they’re on-beat or he wants to explain his plans for constructing the ultimate pizza by infiltrating and stealing the recipes from every major chain he can think of. He’s always there and that’s awesome, except it’s going to make slipping away to transform into a carnivorous canine in the woods behind the venue parking lot after tonight’s show tricky.

Andy’d actually been pretty psyched. Last month the best he’d been able to manage had been fifteen minutes transformed in an Arby’s bathroom, and that had really sucked, not only because the cleaning products in the room had left the wolf feeling nauseous, but because he really needs more time than that. He’d spent most of the next week feeling itchy and nervous. Even Tom’s friend Jon had asked if he was feeling alright. Andy isn’t a kid anymore—he’s built up enough control that when he transforms during the moon night is largely voluntary, but he can’t hold out against the moon’s pull forever, and the longer he waits, the harder it gets. Shows can be pretty distracting, too, and when he’s keeping his instincts under that kind of control, he can’t afford too much distraction.

This month, though, he’d done a little research on the venue, found out that they were in a rural area, and he’s got plans. He’s going to take hours and he’s going to stretch his legs and smell the flowers and possibly kill a small animal. Humans may be omnivores with the option of vegetarianism and Andy believes in taking/choosing that option when he has the option, but wolves are definitely carnivores. The wolf under Andy’s skin is definitely a carnivore, that is, and it is famished.

As suspected, though, after packing up from the show he has a cheerful Adam Siska attached to his right arm like a malignant growth or something. Andy can’t take much more of this, he’s losing focus, zoning out on the smells wafting through the backstage area as Mike ducks out for a smoke, so when Sisky says something about tracking down pancakes before making their way back to the van, he makes himself say, “Not tonight, Sisky,” and, “I’ve got to go,” before shaking him off and ducking back inside to grab the last piece from his kit and then nearly running to dump it in the trailer and slip off before he’s asked any more questions.

Operation Stalk The Butcher Until He Reveals His Secrets has actually been going pretty well for the last week and a half. No secrets have been revealed, true, but the Butcher hasn’t seemed to be getting suspicious of Sisky’s motives, either, which is good. He's obviously being lulled into a false sense of security, which is the only way he’s ever going to reveal anything. When the full moon comes around, though, it feels like all his work has been for nothing: the target leaves without even so much as trying to make up an excuse.

Sisky is a little disappointed by that. He’s been working on strategies for translating obviously false excuses until they reveal whatever grain of truth they might be hiding. “You’re sure you’re not mad because he ditched you?” Bill asks. “You guys have been pretty tight lately. I’ve been thinking about asking him about his intentions. Did you know I noticed him sniffing your tee-shirt the other day?”

That’s weird, actually, but still. “Totally not the point. We’ve been close because he’s been under surveillance, the point is that he completely evaded our operative, and he’s not supposed to even be aware of the mission!”

“Our operative?”

“Well, um, me.” Even as he says it, Sisky knows that sounds kind of lame.

“You’re right, that really doesn’t sound as good,” Bill says, and Sisky is forcibly reminded of why he’s been trailing around after William Beckett ever since he ran into him at Jason’s party when Sisky was thirteen years old. Sometimes Bill just gets it so right.

Still, talking to Bill about serious problems has mostly been pretty unhelpful lately. Sisky thinks if Bill would just try he could totally give better advice about serious underground missions other than, “Stop watching spy movies.” Sisky personally doesn’t think that would help at all.

Okay, so next month Andy needs to come up with a better getaway plan. Feeling boxed in the other night had really sucked, enough that ducking out without a word had felt like his only option. Having to deal with the consequences, though, sucks, too. Nobody says anything, which ought to be a good thing. Andy has never been unclear with these guys about needing this time to himself. He’s done everything right, and technically nobody has any right to criticize. For anyone to try to make any kind of comment, place any kind of concrete blame, would be a total dick move, and would put Andy securely in the right. As it is, though, they’re stuck in some kind of limbo where nobody is really wrong, but Andy sure doesn’t feel innocent, either. It’s getting to the point where the Butcher is beginning to feel like he deserves Bill’s glares. He’s never wanted to be in a band with guys he won’t eventually think of as family, and these guys had been getting pretty near to that already. The tension in the air between them right now feels pretty fucking awful.

 

Sisky isn’t really talking to him. He’s not not talking to him, either, which is something. He’s perfectly friendly, he just doesn’t gravitate toward the Butcher when it’s time to explore the venue, and he doesn’t fight for shotgun when Andy’s driving or ask to share whatever he orders for dinner. Andy thinks maybe he could push the issue, but he’s pretty sure it wouldn’t be easy at this point, either. Every time he tries to shove into the booth of a diner next to Sisky, or fall back to walk next to him as they go offstage that night, Sisky attaches himself to someone else, or wanders off on his own. It’s obvious at this point that it’s no accident. Andy doesn’t know how to fix it without giving an explanation he doesn’t really want to get into, but he’s got to do something soon, that he knows.

Sisky is strategizing, not sulking. He’s taken to avoiding Bill, who cracks up every time he says so, though. He’s mostly started hanging with Mike behind the venue after soundcheck. He pretends the secondhand smoke is therapeutic, but really it’s just easier not to be around for the Butcher to ask him to go exploring than it is to say no. Sisky has decided he needs the distance. He’s clearly become far too invested in this investigation. (Although isn’t invested what you’re supposed to be to make something an investigation? Sisky doesn’t know, he only knows he must have gotten something wrong because the point of this investigation was definitely not to end up feeling this shitty.)

Mike says he doesn’t mind the company, and he’s been pretty awesome about giving up some of the only time he’s got to himself these days, which would be huge for anyone on tour, and means even more coming from Mike, who isn’t exactly solitary but does like his space sometimes. Sisky has a sneaking suspicion some of it is because of that time when Bill dragged Mike to the side and whispered at him for a while, because after that Mike joined Bill in glaring at the Butcher, which sucks because that kind of hostility is totally betraying the mission. Plus, he doesn’t like what Bill’s been implying, and he certainly doesn’t want him spreading it around.

Bill keeps trying to have insight-heavy talks about how he knows what Sisky’s going through, an idea that is flawed for two reasons. First, that thing that Bill thinks is going on, that he’s supposedly relating to? It isn’t happening. It’s so not happening. Second, though, and the point that should be more obvious, is that Sisky knows. He remembers what Bill is talking about, and he’s already taken the lessons that could be learned from it to heart.

Sisky learned a lot of the things he knows about life from Bill, actually. Some from Jason, too, but there are things a brother just won’t share with you, things a friend who’s only a couple of years older will. He was there a year and a half/two years ago, when Gabe from Midtown was the person Bill mentioned practically every other word, was there when he drove down to Tinley Park in a borrowed car just to see them play as a graduation present to himself.

Sisky was there in Bill's and Mike’s apartment when Bill didn’t come back after the show, not until the next morning, even though it was less than an hour’s drive. He’d also been there in the weeks before, heard the plans for finding out where the band were going to be hanging out after the gig, tapping any connections for news. He’d known what Bill was hoping for.

He doesn’t know what happened that night, but then, he doesn’t really need to. It doesn’t matter if some twenty-something lead singer in a semi-famous band took Bill up on the advances he’d almost certainly made or not, because he had quite obviously not ended up as head-over-heels infatuated as William after the encounter, which Sisky is sure took place. He knows they must have met because ever since, every once in a blue moon, Bill will get a text that would make him grin for the rest of the day, from a number saved as ‘G.S.’ in his phone.

It’s even stranger now, when they’re touring with Midtown. The first time they’d ended up at the same party, Adam had tried to be in solidarity with Bill in some way, had stood close when Gabe Saporta swept over with a shout of, “William Beckett!” Bill had grinned back, let himself be swept into a brief but violent looking hug, full of extremely pointy elbows. Had realized maybe there wasn’t anything to be in solidarity about. He thinks it’s a good thing he’d wandered away not too long after that, since that was the night where it was fully established that Gabe and Bill are a very loud combination in social situations. Also, he thinks everyone else had interpreted his sticking close as shyness, which really wasn’t a reputation he needed (still isn’t), as pretty much the youngest person in the room.

That night had been a pretty good template for the way this entire tour has been going--noisy, friendly, frequently drunken, and entirely free of allusions to passes or hook-ups which may or may not have taken place in the past. Adam had thought that meant something, possibly something involving overused phrases, like ‘growing up and growing out of crushes based on hero worship’. Maybe not, though, since Bill has decided that tonight on the walk back to the van is the perfect time to give him some advice, mostly about How Not To Have A Crush On An Older Musician.

Most of his advice wouldn’t be very useful even if Sisky did have a crush on the Butcher (which he doesn’t). It is pretty illuminating stuff about what’s going on in William’s head, in ways it probably isn’t intended to be, but Sisky never really had all that much trouble feeling out Bill’s thought processes anyway, so most of that isn’t news to him, either.

What Bill is saying mostly revolves around being a stalker without looking like you’re being a stalker (Sisky has given up trying to point out the fact that even if he was in the situation Bill thinks he is in, which he is not, he and Andy are in the same band) and not feeling pressured to put out just because a guy is older. He’s very earnest about this. He says lots of things about how Sisky could be feeling pressured even if nothing is said, how that’s not right, either, how he should be careful how he presents himself, in order to avoid that kind of a situation. Sisky is honestly not sure if he’s speaking from experience or just trying not to let Sisky’s mom down. He’s not sure he wants to ask.

William looks straight at him then, looks right in his eye and says, “It can be a bad idea, Adam. Please be careful,” but Sisky knows. He knew after the Midtown show when Bill stumbled in at four in the morning, pale and exhausted, called in sick to work and dragged Sisky back to his room to lie side by side on the rough carpet and listen to London Calling three times in a row. Sisky understood then--sometimes you just need The Clash--and he understands now, too: “be careful,” in this case, means “don’t do it.” Sisky isn’t going to.

Mike is easier to be around, largely because he doesn’t claim to have some supreme wisdom regarding crushes Sisky may or may not have. Mike doesn’t seem to have crushes; he goes after people he likes, and if the feeling isn’t mutual, he moves on. Sisky doesn’t know how this translates into his own non-situation, but he isn’t about to question a comfortable silence when he gets one.

...

The thing about touring is that it may be pretty hard to avoid someone entirely, but for similar reasons it is equally difficult to get someone on their own. Andy’s pretty sure that even if he did manage to get a moment alone with Siska, there wouldn’t really be anything he could say, but really, that’s not going to be an issue, as anything he might or might not say is going to have an audience, one way or another. This is why, on the day he has set for himself as the day he will fix things so that this tour no longer sucks, he ends up making his apology in front of Mike.

Mike, the Butcher is finding, can be kind of a dick.

“So,” Andy starts, not wanting to deal with any more evasion than, well, the entire past week, “I know you’ve been pissed at me.” He’s pretty obviously talking to Adam--he’s facing him, for one thing, and he’s pretty sure the rest of his body language says the same thing. Andy is pretty aware of his body language--Aunt Jen says it’s a shape shifting thing. Still, Mike answers, easily, readily, like he’d planned to fill the silence all along.

“And what on earth would I have to be pissed about, Mrotek?” Andy’s last name is not designed for drawling, but Mike manages. He’s got a pretty sharp smile on his face, too, a smile promising trouble. Andy ignores him.

“I miss you, Sisky Biz.”

He tries to put as much sincerity into his voice as he can--it’s how he feels, and it would suck if he couldn’t manage to get it across. He must be doing something right, because Sisky uncrosses his arms and looks up, eyes only just barely reproachful, and says, “I was thinking about tracking down a hair cut. If I ask one of you guys to do it, I’ll probably end up losing an ear or something.”

Andy nods seriously. It’s true. “Want to help me check out the town for somewhere to get it done?” Andy is pretty sure he’s never agreed to anything so gladly in his life.

It’s possible that the way Sisky feels could potentially be described as a crush. But only if the person doing the describing was being really over-dramatic. And immature. And possibly wrong. Sisky doesn’t know. He does know that all it takes is the Butcher’s earnest eyes and a little bit more than a week’s distance and he is folding, caving, giving in to a pull he’s been trying hard not to acknowledge that is there. He’s quiet as he and the Butcher walk side by side down the street, which feels blanker and grayer than it probably is, but Sisky has pretty much decided to give in to his subjective experience today. To him, the street is overcast and empty, and the sidewalk is cracked in an oddly ominous way. He knows his silence is unusual for him. He also doesn’t really care. Sisky’s pretty good at forgiving without ever forgetting, and in this case he forgave without most of the thinking part of his brain’s permission. He feels quiet and angry and content all at once—like if he were thinking aloud, it would be soft-voiced and quick, words tripping over each other, but there’s this weird calm creeping over him, slowing his movements, keeping his mouth shut, enjoying the measured cadence of their combined footsteps. Sisky stuffs his hands into his pockets and starts scanning the storefronts.

Andy lets the quiet stretch for a while (“fucking artists,” Sisky thinks, and then feels bad for thinking it, and god, this is getting ridiculous), but it isn’t too long, only two or three blocks from the venue, when he says, “You sure about this, baby boy?” His voice is light and teasing, he reaches out and tweaks a curl, says, “I’d miss all this if you lost it.”

Sisky doesn’t really respond except for a vague, “Out with the old, you know?” But when they run into a hair salon a block and a half later, he looks at the line of hairdressers through the window and pronounces them the kind of people who cut his mom’s hair. They freak him out, a little, which is why he says they should probably just grab something to eat and head back to the van. He’ll beg a trim off of Bill tomorrow morning or something.

Andy feels bad. It’s not like he has any right to have an opinion on what Siska does or does not do to his hair, and just after he’s managed to make one of the more awkward non-apologies of his existence is not the ideal time to start making comments he has no right to. He’d just been thinking, though, while they walked, about how forlorn those curls would look on some dirty salon floor. It’s November, too--not the time for a brand-new short haircut, which should be undertaken in the early summer, adapting to the environment instead of protesting against it.

Still, it’s not his head, though it’s a heady thought that his opinion has some bearing on what Adam actually does. Heady and confusing, because he’s really done nothing to earn that kind of confidence. If anything, he’s earned distrust. Most people probably think a co-worker’s semi-involuntary shape-shifting into a wild animal is the kind of job hazard they deserve to be warned about. Not that Andy is any danger to them--he wouldn’t be. He couldn’t be. He does get a new set of instincts when he shifts, but he doesn’t lose his memories or his personality, both of which have the rest of the band pretty solidly labeled as ‘pack’ in the wolf’s mind.

Almost, Andy wants to tell them. Well, he wants to tell Sisky, but that’s a much scarier thought than wanting to tell all of them--they’re all his band now, and part of him thinks that means they have the right to know. Aunt Jen had a few horror stories about telling people who don’t know you too well, though, and quite a few more tales of disbelief and derision, which actually sound a lot more unpleasant than outright horror, to Andy at least. And he’s never actually told anyone--he’s not sure he’d know how. Growing up, he’d had school friends who didn’t know and cousins and a brother who did, and that had been enough.

Since then, the desire to show off this particular weirdness had faded, leaving less reason to reveal it. Well, until now, anyway. The point, really, is that as long as he hasn’t told Sisky about the fact that he isn’t entirely human, it doesn’t feel right having any influence over Sisky’s life. He’s surprised that it’s even an issue--Adam is pretty strong willed, and he doesn’t generally take suggestions very well. He hadn’t seemed particularly bothered about it, though. Andy is only half convinced he had anything to do with the change of heart at all.

Sisky was ready to be done with high school when Bill and Mike graduated. It was just the end of his freshman year, and already he felt finished. Not fed up, not upset, just like there was no reason left for him to be present. He stuck it out another year, but just as a background noise to the band, to practicing and playing and solidifying the lineup and getting signed and all the important things, so that by
the time they started touring, Sisky was a little surprised to find he was still fully enrolled enough to sign up for correspondence classes.

The point, if there is a point, is that he has never really managed to find people to connect to in his immediate peer group, which gives him a skewed view of his age as it relates to other people. The Butcher, to use an entirely random example, doesn’t feel that much older than Adam because he isn’t that much older than William. Every once in a while, though, something happens that makes him feel exactly sixteen, no more, no less. It’s a lonely feeling, at least on tour.

It’s not the obvious things, either—not going out to bars, because Bill is still a couple months shy of twenty one, too, and anyway, isn’t that what fake i.d.s are for? It’s not—okay, well maybe it is the sex thing, a little bit. Sisky maintains, though, that hanging with Gabe would make most people feel inexperienced, though he tries not to say so in Bill’s hearing. Mostly, though, it’s just tiny things, just the way someone will reference a cartoon from his childhood and someone else will chime in with the theme song, and before he knows it, Sisky has to admit he has no idea what they’re singing about, or they’ll think he’s just being stuck up by not joining in.

Then Andy will ruffle his hair and tell him he’s not missing much anyway—Andy doesn’t remember whatever-the-fuck-it-was as all that awesome anyway, and someone else will say something well-meaning and stupid about almost always being able to forget Sisky’s age and Sisky will feel small in a way he usually doesn’t even when standing between Bill and Gabe, laughing as they have a conversation quite literally over his head.

Sometimes being on the road is everything Sisky wants in life, but right now he’s realizing that sometimes it can also mess with his head. As the tour winds down, Sisky thinks with longing about going home to his own bed, his cats, his family. And then tour ends, and he goes home.

The first full moon after tour ends is supposed to be a relief. It would be--Andy borrows his brother’s car and drives miles away from any town before he pulls over. Aunt Jen had called to tell him once again that he’s totally welcome to come out to her place and run with the pack any time, but he’d decided against it, at least this time. Pack hierarchies can get him down sometimes. He can’t—doesn’t even try to, really--to refuse to play the power games, the pack heirarchy, that makes up canine society, but he can be a little selective about when he partakes.

This time he’s going to take a long enough run that his legs will practically give out before he stops. There’s nothing like the wolf’s speed to keep him from thinking about anything else. When he shifts, though, he opens his eyes again and feels something like unease. Something is not in order. Something is not right.

The feeling doesn’t go away as the night goes on, and as he follows his original plan. The ache in his muscles as he runs helps to dull the feeling, but it nags at the edge of his consciousness until the light starts to go grey, until Andy lopes back to his car, until he transforms back in an abrupt way, pulls on a pair of sweats and collapses into the back seat of the car, still breathing hard. As he slips off into an exhausted sleep, he places the feeling. It’s a feeling of dimness, like a lack of color being perceived by scent. It’s the loss of something he’s become accustomed to; he can’t smell sunshine.

He takes a pretty brief nap, all told, wakes up somehow still feeling short of breath and, feeling foolish, pulls out his cell phone as he climbs into the driver’s seat, punching in the one number he thinks will help calm the jumpy feeling in the tips of his fingers. It’s just past six in the morning, and he half expects it to go straight to voicemail, but after a couple of rings, he hears the click, and the sound of shuffling movements that indicate when a phone is fumblingly answered, “The Butcher?” A sleep-heavy voice asks.

“Hey,” he says, pulling out onto the highway, “Sorry to wake you.”

A muffled laugh, a pause and another shuffling sound, like he’s moving to another room. “If I minded, I wouldn’t have answered. So what’s up?”

“Just missed the sound of your voice.” There are some things you can get away with saying, if you keep your tone over-dramatic.

Sisky yawns and says, “ ‘Kay. Jesus, you should have been here last night--Scimeca’s fucking crazy, man.”

The road stretches out ahead, looks a little warmer and more welcoming as the sun edges reluctantly over it. The Butcher laughs and settles the phone more comfortably against his shoulder.

...

They’re touring with Midtown again. Well, they’re calling it touring, which sounds better than packing up a van and a trailer full of instruments and tagging along after (or before) the band so that Gabe has somewhere to escape to. That isn’t how William presented the situation when he said they’d been offered another slew of shows, but that’s the actual purpose behind their presence, Sisky’s pretty sure. It isn’t their ability to draw a crowd, he knows better than to kid himself about that, though they do put on a good show. He thinks there’s something to his theory though, from the way Gabe seems to spend most of his time riding with them, and the way that the time he does spend with his band seems a little stilted, any laughter there a little forced.

He wouldn’t mind, he mostly doesn’t mind--a gig’s a gig, and it always makes Bill smile when Gabe slides in to their van when they head out. The thing is, though, that a troubled Gabe is a distractable Gabe, and apparently one of the things you find out as Gabe’s friend that you’d never dare think as just a fan is that a distractable Gabe is an annoying Gabe.

“Bilvy, Bilvy, let down your long hair!” Bill swats at Gabe's shin half-heartedly and turns over in his place on the van floor, head pillowed on one arm and a balled up hoodie. The fact that he doesn’t even try to point out that, from the floor, there really is nowhere to let his hair down to, even if he were so inclined, is a sign of just how tired he is. He pretty much never lets go of an opportunity to toss barbs and sarcastic comments back and forth with Gabe. They’re all tired, though; Sisky is watching the exchange through slitted eyes from the very back seat, squished between the Butcher and the window.

Gabe staying the night in their van is a new development--always in the past few days he’s spent a few hours with them and then switched into the Midtown van again at some point in the night. This time, though, when he’d reluctantly sidled out the door at the last rest-stop, grin dimming slightly, William had said something, made some excuse about an unfinished conversation and how he couldn’t leave now, and that had been that. Mike’s glare and Tom’s, “I’ve still got shotgun,” went entirely unheeded. Really, Bill brought this on himself.

“Or are you the kind of princess it takes a kiss to wake up?” This time, Mike throws something at him from the driver’s seat. Sisky can’t see quite what in the dimness, but Gabe flinches at the impact. Sisky hopes it wasn’t the flashlight; it’s been way more useful than he’d ever have guessed lately—finding almost private spots to piss in the woods when they’re out on some highway that rest stops had forgot has never been easier, and if the impact of flashlight on van floor has broken the plastic, Sisky will be so pissed.

William acts like he hasn’t heard this time, sticking his head practically under the seat, as if that will drown out the noise, and Sisky can’t help but laugh a little. When William sticks his head back up to glare murderously in his direction, Sisky ducks his head to the other side, away from the window and the aisle he’s been peeping down, into the Butcher’s shoulder.

“I know you’re awake, Sisky.” Bill trying to sound menacing is always a little hilarious, but Adam does his best to hide his smile, ducking his head even further into the shadows.

“And I knew you were, too!” Gabe sounds way more triumphant than should really be possible at nearly four in the morning. The Butcher’s hand reaches down and squeezes Sisky’s knee--a warning. He then lifts his head, a little groggily, and Sisky worries that the Butcher actually had been asleep, brushes away what could have become a mouthful of curls with his other hand, and says, “I’m pretty sure he is asleep, actually. Hard to tell though, with the way he gets. Didn’t you tell me once that Jason talks in his sleep sometimes, too?”

Actually, it was Sisky who told him that, but he feels like this probably isn’t the best time to bring that up. Instead, he settles a little firmer into his seat, head now resting pretty securely on the Butcher’s shoulder. For some reason he feels warmer than he has all night, even though he’s still in just the one hoodie. Gabe is saying something loud about the price of deceit, but Sisky doesn’t care. For the first time in hours of uneasy napping, he really falls asleep.

Andy is planning on telling them as soon as they go on their next tour. They’re going to be living in very close quarters with him, and Andy felt bad enough about that the first time—now they’re his guys, and they deserve to know. The thing is, he wants to tell his band. He trusts them, because they are trustworthy guys, and he knows them, and at worst they’ll think he’s crazy, but he actually thinks that it might not be too much of a problem for them. It is possible that they think he’s crazy already. It might even be why they wanted him in the band.

So he wants to tell his band, but he doesn’t particularly want to tell Gabe Saporta. The problem is that he’s starting to think he’s never going to find one without the other. Getting Sisky alone isn’t a problem. Sisky is always somewhere nearby, even when Andy wanders off to places he shouldn’t. It would be easy enough to come clean to Sisky, but he shies away from the idea, which seems too much like confession, like something heavy instead of just something potentially important.

He could actually probably get each of them on their own at some point, but trying to explain this that many times just sounds like torture. The problem is trying to gather them together; every time a group of three or more people on this tour ends up in the same place, someone ends up making some desperate bid for a party. It’s like there’s something in the air; a manic cheerfulness. Anyone looking even a little beyond the surface surely can’t help but see the cracks. Andy is pretty sure he’s not the only one making the effort not to look too hard.

He thinks maybe he could call a band meeting, but that seems needlessly dramatic. More dramatic than coming out as a mythological creature? Andy doesn’t know. He wishes he could ask Sisky, who is walking along next to him right now and probably gives great advice. Asking Sisky how he ought to tell Sisky a secret seems like an exercise in futility, though. Much like the action they’re currently engaged in, really, but they can blame this exercise in futility on Gabe, which isn’t something that could be said for harebrained schemes cooked up entirely in his own head.

Tonight’s exercise in futility is more commonly known as Capture The Flag, or would be if the naming of the game hadn’t come under fire and eventually been put on hold to appease the literalists. The namelessness of the game is no laughing matter, it’s the only compromise proposed with the potential to actually end the long and irritating discussion of whether an actual flag was necessary to the game or whether it’s actually another game entirely if something else is being hidden. All this is clear enough. What is less clear is how the entire group was brought around to the idea that a person would be an appropriate substitute in the absence of a flag to hide.

That’s the short answer the question of why the Butcher is wandering around an abandoned parking lot in some nameless town in the northeast with his jailbait bassist by his side grumbling about how if Mike really feels the need to throw flashlights at Gabe, and Sisky does understand the impulse, really, he does, he ought to aim better, or at least get his own flashlight to throw, so that when he breaks it he won’t be leaving other people to play Capture The Lead Singer in the dark.

“We’d just get captured if we had a light on, though. You’re not saying you want to lose, are you, Sisky Biz?”

Sisky narrows his eyes, and if Andy were in any way actually questioning his commitment to playground games after midnight instead of joking, his mind would be entirely changed. Instead, he just laughs when Sisky says, petulant, “Not if we were fast enough. We’d just switch on the flashlight at the opportune moment, see Bill, swoop in, capture him back, and then go to sleep. Do you know how much I love my sleep? I am a growing boy, the Butcher, I need sleep to live.”

Andy puts his finger to his lips, grinning bright and sudden and straining his ears for the sound he had decided a moment ago that he was going to let go for the sake of the game, for the sake of fair play. Sisky’s right; they could all use the sleep. He turns around and beckons Sisky back the way they just came from on quiet, creeping feet.

Capture The Lead Singer is a stupid game, Sisky is totally willing to admit. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t still want to win with a burning, fiery passion. Thus, obviously, the only option is to, a). get onto the same team as The Butcher and b). stick as close to him throughout that game as is physically possibly. Obviously.

A). turns out to be pretty easy to achieve once they decide that Bill and Gabe are going to be the flags for this particular adventure, because after that it seems obvious to divide teams loosely by bands and people associated with bands, and the Butcher is definitely in Sisky’s band. B). is also pretty easy to turn into reality—mostly, Sisky thinks, based on the fact that he and Andy have been hanging out often enough over the course of the last couple of tours that it actually probably seems more like a given than a strategy. Sisky reminds himself that it’s all part of his cunning plan, but it feels almost perfunctory—far less important, in any case, than crushing Gabe’s team like a bug and laughing over its dying remains. Gabe stole almost half of Sisky’s pizza when he was in the bathroom at dinner the other night, and if he isn’t forced to pay, Sisky may be forced to give up on believing in justice in the universe.

He tries to explain the sanctity of this mission to the Butcher, but when he gets to the bit about righting those wrongs that cannot be allowed to stand by allowing no mercy, Andy’s laughing hard enough that Sisky is pretty sure he can’t hear him anyway, so he stops.

...

“Aw, Sisky, don’t sulk,” Andy says when he can breathe again.

“I’m not,” Sisky replies (not sulkily). “I’m focusing on the game. I can’t crush him like a bug if I don’t win, can I?” It’s almost an honest question—if the Butcher can come up with some other way for Sisky to get all the revenge that is due to him, he will gladly leave the game behind and crawl off to sleep in the van. It’s late, the show adrenaline has worn off, and Sisky is getting to the point where the beer he’d worked his way through slowly during the hour spent arguing out the rules for this game is only making him sleepy.

He maybe grumbles some things about sleep, then, and how much he needs it, isn’t maybe paying that much attention to the game anymore, once he warms up to his new rant because really? That was Sisky’s flashlight, he bought it in Detroit, he’s pretty sure, and it was very useful right up until the point when Mike threw it at Gabe, missed, and the red plastic cracked and broke when it hit the exposed metal in the van door. Fucking van. So yeah, maybe that’s more where his attention is than the game, right up until the moment when he realizes he’s talking to himself--Andy is walking quietly in the opposite direction, and when Sisky looks back, he’s beckoning, finger over his lips in a shushing motion.

It’s a good thing the Butcher heard whatever he heard, because until he saw it, Sisky wouldn’t have even believed Bill could fit under that little porch on the side of the venue, never mind him and Gabe, which really, Sisky is pretty sure, is counterproductive to the point of the game--isn’t Gabe supposed to be somewhere on the other side of the building? And also, “Hands where I can see ‘em, Saporta, watching Bilvy get felt up under a porch with a spider in his hair is not on my bucket list.”

Later, it isn’t clear if it’s the sound of Sisky’s voice or Andy’s laughter that draws the attention of the other team. Sisky would like to blame Gabe’s smirk, but as obnoxious as it is, he guesses it isn’t technically making any noise. Of course, it could be the sound of Bill smacking his head against the underside of the porch in an attempt to get rid of the spider Sisky made up. Whatever the reason, a moment later the four of them are sprinting towards the boundary line, Bill dragging Gabe along by the hand, Andy somehow pulling into the lead which, Sisky thinks vaguely, is odd, since Andy smokes like a chimney and Bill has longer legs and used to play sports.

Still, they somehow all make it over the line, which ends the game, and Sisky may win, but he still doesn’t get to beat Gabe, since Gabe is claiming to be a double agent who switched sides in the middle of the game, and William is saying something under his breath about symbolism and the game reflecting reality and Heath is glaring and Mike is glaring right back because apparently he doesn’t care that they’re only on tour now ‘Thanks to the grace of god and Midtown,’ as Sisky’s mom might say, he gets prickly when people act threatening at Bill, or Sisky for that matter, and so when Tom finally suggests that it might be time to get on the road, Sisky is only too happy to back him up

They’re driving again, Tom behind the wheel as punishment for having the bad sense to suggest that they might want to get somewhere tonight before they can all crash, and Andy has only been with these guys about as long as Tom, but he’s starting to feel like he’s having an easier time adjusting to their personal weirdness. He thinks maybe it’s because he went to an arts school, but then Tom is friends with Walker, and Andy is sure he’s seen that guy wearing flip-flops in January, so really, Tom ought to be used to illogical people, too. Andy doesn’t feel all that sorry for him.

For his own part, Andy makes sure to claim the stretch of floor in front of the middle seats, mostly by arguing that William is too tall to enjoy it. Sisky takes that as a reason to say he deserves it even more, then, since he’s a couple of inches shorter. It’s Andy’s space, though, and against his better judgment he’s damned if he’s going to give it up, even if Sisky--he’s not actually going to sit on him, is he? Apparently, he is. Poking him in the side only shifts him long enough for him to slide down next to Andy, and Sisky is still sixteen, still has skinny wrists and bony shoulders, is still warm, still smells like fucking sunshine, something in the corner of Andy’s brain is still screaming danger but he is tired and it is late and has he mentioned that Sisky is warm? When he’s finished groping around under the seat for the throw blanket he picked up at the rest stop the other day after someone spilled soup the consistency of vomit on his sleeping bag (and where the hell had they even managed to find soup anyway? Andy doesn’t really want to know), he’s exhausted enough, feeling like he’s accomplished enough, that the urge to claim the space for himself instead of curling up with Sisky has almost completely evaporated.

 

It’s nice, waking up on top of the Butcher. That’s something Adam suspected for a while now, actually—waking up leaning against him in the back seat has been not half-bad, and that seems like it ought to be a pretty good indicator. That’s not to say, though, that Sisky kisses the Butcher, morning breath and all, squinting against the morning light and bracing himself against bumps in the road, just because he’s warm and has an arm around Sisky’s back and smells vaguely spicy. Those would all be pretty stupid reasons. He’s not sure what more sensible reasons would be, but he’s sun-addled, alright? He’s sleepy and still in high school and any other excuse he can scrape together, and the point is that the Butcher kisses back.

If this was that bad of an idea, he wouldn’t have a hand on the back of Sisky’s neck, would he?

Sisky will be grateful, later, that it’s Tom who wakes up first—it could have been so much worse, Carden is far from a morning person, but at the time, he’s really kind of pissed when his first kiss in way too long is interrupted when he gets whacked by a pillow, jerks back in surprise, smashes his head against the underside of one of the seats and looks up to see Tom fighting down a massive grin and saying, “Man, I hate to use the cliche, but, you know, seriously, get a room. Or, like, go back to sleep, it is obscenely early.”

 

Andy is ninety eight percent sure he’s about one dark alley away from an inescapable lecture from Bill and some vaguely threatening facial expressions from Mike and possibly getting kicked out of the band, and he knows he should care, but Sisky keeps shooting him these half nervous, half anticipatory looks and it’s making Andy’s blood jump around inside his veins in a way that he’s vaguely sure is not quite healthy, and he really, really doesn’t care.

They’re on fire for the show that night—it might be that or the way Gabe and the drummer—Andy’s blanking on his name just now—got into a pretty obvious power-play about the set list during the show, but The Academy not only gets, Andy is pretty sure, a much more extensive round of applause, but they also out-sell Midtown on merch by a full two and a half of the local pizzas they all order after.

It’s a celebration, then, and Midtown mostly make a halfhearted attempt to cheer along with them at first, pretty much the definition of good sportsmanship, but none of the guys in either of these bands, with the possible exception of William Beckett, are particularly good sportsmen.

Later, when Bill doesn’t look likely to launch into a speech with anything to do with hypothetical statutory anymore, Andy will share this observation with him. Bill will laugh and say, “Why else do you think I quit baseball to focus on music? I was fuckin’ sick of sportsmen.”

Andy will suspect that Bill is missing his point. He’ll try to think about the way to clarify before determining that really, the weed has blurred his logic to the point where he’s bringing up this kind of thing to begin with, which obviously means he’s too stoned to speak straight, let alone think straight.

At that point, it won’t even matter, because while the Butcher is thinking, Gabe will have leaned into the conversation from the other end of the couch, promising that, “I can be as sporty as you want, Billiam,” and by then there will be no focus on Andy at all, except for the unconscious little glances Sisky will be shooting at him from across the room between rounds of poker with Mike. Andy will find that he doesn’t mind at all.

Before too long, most of Midtown filter out to their van, or retreat to a corner of the room to scowl a little as the Academy get louder and louder in their self-congratulation, helped along pretty enthusiastically by Gabe, who’s broken out the Jack and keeps proposing toasts, “To my boy William Beckett, seriously, did you hear him tonight?” Andy is not entirely sure what’s going on with Gabe and his band, except for the fact that until tonight it had seemed like a pretty universal tension, instead of a division along clear lines. Right now, though, pretty much all of them look like they want to kill him. Andy predicts that their van will have another passenger again tonight, if Gabe knows what’s good for him.

They haven’t really spent any time alone since this morning when Tom threw a pillow at them and told them to get a room—a pretty effective end to unlikely, morning-breath-ey kisses, but Sisky has been feeling light and breezy all day, like nothing he does really matters because it’s all just preparation for something, anticipation building.

That something, though, really ought to resolve itself into something other than limbo, Sisky thinks, so after an entire day of not saying anything, when Bill pulls him aside on the walk over to the van, waving the rest ahead, he decides to start the conversation off. He says, “Okay, so maybe I did kind of have a crush.”

“Still think he’s a werewolf?” Sometimes Bill makes it really easy to hate him.

“Maybe? I mean, obviously this is also the final phase of the investigation. If he can keep hiding it now—“

“So if I told him to back the fuck off, you’d be upset because I messed with your investigation?” Bill sounds a little dangerous, here, or at least like he’s trying to sound dangerous. Sisky is pretty sure he doesn’t like it.

“—Bilvy—“

“Adam Siska, you are sixteen years old.”

Bill doesn’t usually play the age card, and this conversation is pretty quickly killing the floaty feeling Sisky’s been riding on all day. “Jesus, Sisky, you think the dude’s a werewolf, how attached can you be? And this is—this is the band.”

Okay, well, there is that. This is the band and things do go wrong, they go wrong all the time, and Sisky is secure enough in his place that he thinks if it came down to him or the Butcher, he’d probably be the one to stay, but the band needs a drummer, and already the thought of playing with anyone else behind the kit makes something ache in his chest. Sisky knows this is the moment where he could say something that could hurt—anyone who grew up with siblings knows this would be the time to lash out, give as good as he got and worry about regretting saying anything about the quiet something building between Bill and the lead singer of the tour’s headliner, but Bill just looks worried and sincere, the same way he always does about the band or about his friends. Sisky takes a breath and lets it out.

When he does speak, it’s quiet. “I think you should back off,” and Bill nods, even if he still looks a little troubled. They don’t talk again the rest of the walk back to the van, and when they get there, Sisky climbs over into the way back seat, next to the Butcher.

“Something wrong, Sisky biz?” Andy knows he’s a little subdued—having Mike Carden growl at him about keeping his hands to himself in the van makes Andy want to growl back, but the day before the moon, he’s pretty certain it’s a bad idea—growling when he’s in the process of becoming less human sounds pretty suspicious, he knows.

He’s also willing to blame the moon for the fact that even though even Tom has started to give him vaguely speculative looks, and he’s getting to know Tom well enough to realize that being considered creepy by him is a pretty impressive feat. Still, he doesn’t like seeing Sisky look all down, even if the feeling is mutual—it’s actually a let-down reaction for the first time they’re really all that near each other after a whole day of nervous anticipation. He feels relieved when Sisky scoots in closer than is really necessary, even in such close quarters, and says, “You’d still like me even if Bill say something to you, right?”

Andy fights the urge to play dumb, to say, “Says something like what?” Instead he taps out a nervous beat on Sisky’s thigh with his fingertips and saying, “Mike already said something and I still like you plenty.”

It’s a cop-out, but Sisky seems content enough with it. He leans his head onto the Butcher’s shoulder, apparently with every intention of going straight to sleep, but Andy’s delighted wonder at exactly how little has changed is almost entirely blotted out by a wave of reaction when Sisky says, offhand and sleepy, “They’ll come around. You’d think they’d know they can trust you by now.”

So really, it seemed like a great idea to wait to tell the band he’s a mythological creature until the one night of the month he can prove it. It seemed like a good idea except for the part where he made out with their underage bassist and now the entire band is looking at him like they want to ask about his intentions and it hardly feels like the time to tell them he’s been omitting some pretty important personal information since they met.

He will, though—if he doesn’t do it now, he’ll have to wait another month, and by then they won’t be on tour anymore, everyone will be scattered. He’ll hopefully be, um, something with Sisky, so that’ll be a whole month of being something and keeping this to himself. It’ll be weird. No matter what, it’ll probably be weird. Andy needs to accept that, he thinks.

So anyway, it’ll have to be today, but he doesn’t think right now is really a good bet. They got a late start and they’re running behind on winding roads in weird traffic, and Mike is driving and has instituted a ‘total silence if you don’t want to die’ rule. Everyone seems to value his life except Bill, who is on the phone with Gabe, who is having some sort of crisis on the other van which mostly seems to involve swearing in Spanish and putting his phone on speaker to try to get Bill to arbitrate whatever debate he’s having with the rest of the band.

Midtown as a whole, though, doesn’t seem to want to cede their decision making power to William Beckett, who seems torn between doing the sensible thing and hanging up the damn phone and his loyalty to Gabe, who keeps yelling at his bandmates to, “Lighten the hell up,” which Andy could have told him wasn’t going to go over too well. Yeah. This doesn’t seem like quite the time.

 

It’s not really the time later, when they get to the venue, either. They’re late for soundcheck and then everyone scatters for a quick food break and then they’re getting ready to go on and saying something just before the performance would practically be sabotage.

So then they’re on stage and they’re playing, and something’s a little off but Andy can roll with it, he’s still falling in love with these songs and any show is a good show, mostly, the crowd seems to be with them pretty well, and when they walk off they’re all grinning, riding a performance high, and Mike even claps Andy on the back, tells him he was on tonight, and Andy thinks maybe everything’s going to work out, especially when Sisky bounces up beside him and smacks a mostly-joking-looking kiss on him before bounding off to see if there’s any leftover pizza from lunch, and Andy really thinks everything can maybe be alright.

Then everything goes to shit.

 

Midtown aren’t going on. Or they are, but this is the last show. Or they are and of course this isn’t the last show, dude, don’t be such a fucking drama queen. It’s hard to tell.

It shouldn’t even be Sisky’s problem, really, apart from the fact that, as the headliner, if Midtown breaks up, Sisky has no tour. Still, he’d be perfectly content to ignore the problem until it either explodes or goes away, except for the fact that Midtown is choosing to have its intra-band breakdown in the doorway that leads out to the parking lot, which means the band is having its collective breakdown in such a way as to get between Sisky and a post-show snack, and that kind of thing is just not cool, man.

His bandmates agree—well, Mike mostly wants to grab a post-show-cigarette, instead of hours-old, congealed pizza, and Bill has been saying something vague and a little hoarse about whiskey, and Tom and his camera have separation anxiety, and the Butcher has to go do something mysterious in the woods or in a bathroom stall or something. The result is the same, though—they’re caught in the knot of people by the door.

Sisky doesn’t think too much about grabbing onto the Butcher when he starts looking twitchy, like he’s almost ready to shove his way out through the door—his only real thought is that if he tries to push his way through, he’ll get caught in the crossfire, and Sisky likes the Butcher with all his limbs. Surely whatever Andy wants to do isn’t worth the murder Sisky is, caught in a moment of whimsy, sure anyone would get caught up in if they tried to come in the middle of this staring contest. He asks the Butcher, “Don’t leave me here with these crazy people?” Quietly enough, hoping none of those crazy people will hear him.

It’s a vain hope, as it pretty much draws the line of fire over to him, which is ridiculous, since Sisky’s not even part of whatever the fuck it is they’re fighting about—he’s not even sure what it is, besides what he got from a few nights of Gabe’s drunken ramblings about taking themselves far too seriously, and would it kill them to dance once in a while? The point, though, is that even he’s pissed off the band that took them on tour and drawn his own band into a fight that he’s pretty sure none of them really understand and he knows none of them are a part of, at least Andy doesn’t leave.

In fact, far from leaving, he sidles in so he’s standing at Sisky’s back, puts a hand on his shoulder and pretty much just feels steady and solid.

Andy is freaking out. So it’s pretty obvious that it’s not like he could leave—not after Sisky asked him to stay like that, not when it looks like half of Midtown would like to murder Bill for being on Gabe’s side in an argument he’s not actually a part of. Not in what is rapidly becoming an actual crisis with every passing minute that the headliners don’t go on.

Midtown are professionals, though, or at least professional-ish, and of course they go on eventually, but even then Andy doesn’t take the time to slip away and transform because—well, just because. Because Sisky’s leaning back against him and it feels like it would be rude to move. Because Andy has seen bands end and he suspects this might be one of the last Midtown shows he gets to see. Because he doesn’t really want to.

Anyway, the point is that he’s got no one to blame but himself when, at the end of the set, Sisky turns to him, says, “Thanks, I know this is your night to do … whatever, so. Thanks for sticking around,” and kisses him and he just loses control.

Holy shit. “Holy fucking shit.” It’s not like—well, Sisky said it, and he thought he thought it was true, but horror movie inspired daydreams are a little bit different from seeing your sort-of-maybe-almost-future-boyfriend turn from someone who is kissing you to a chagrined wolf tangled up awkwardly in jeans and a tee-shirt.

“Jesus—um, Bill? William!”

Before Sisky gets the chance to ask if it’s possible for him to have turned the Butcher into a werewolf with the power of his brain just by thinking he was one, Andy is back, sitting at Sisky’s feet in a messy heap of tangled and suddenly torn and now ill-fitting clothing. He says, “I guess I can’t just ask you to forget you saw that?” Sounding all embarrassed, like he got caught eating the last pop-tart, not transforming into a potentially man-eating beast, and Sisky doesn’t know what to say.

Bill, who apparently did hear his shout and came up behind him, doesn’t have that problem. He says, “Forget that? Are you fucking crazy?”

Andy forgot how much it sucks to transform without remembering to take his clothes off first, but seriously, he won’t be forgetting again any time soon. It may be only Sisky and Bill who actually saw him as the wolf, but everyone else, including Midtown as they troop offstage before their encore, are snickering at him as he tries to detangle himself from the messy cocoon of garments he’s tangled up in. After the encore begins, he tells his expectant looking band, “I guess I owe you all an explanation.”

Bill’s got one eyebrow raised and Tom looks like he’s mostly just still laughing at Andy’s clothes, but Mike looks at him with what doesn’t even count as a death-glare so much as a mildly annoyed smirk and asks, “You think?” Andy can’t read Sisky’s expression, which is probably the most nerve-wracking part of the whole thing.

“I was right?” Sisky is pretty sure his voice hasn’t been able to get that high since he was thirteen. It’s probably pretty unattractive. He’d be worried about it, only the guy he wants to make out with and do some other things with that he’s not going to think about now, because who knows if werewolves can actually read minds or something equally embarrassing--if no one knows they’re real, how is Sisky supposed to know what they can and can’t do?—that guy, Sisky’s stupid, almost-crush, Andy just announced that he was a creature that hasn’t even been seen in too many horror movies recently. The point is, Sisky’s entitled to be shocked.

Even if he did tell everyone else the shocking revelation months ago. Fuck.

While Sisky is busy drowning in shock and self doubt, Mike has already said, “I know, Sisky told me.”

After that, Bill shoved Mike and told him not to be an idiot and then turned to Andy and asked why the hell they were supposed to believe him, were he and Sisky in on this together? Because it really wasn’t funny.

“I’m not sure what else I could do, dude--you already saw me transform. Do you want me to do it again?”

--that’s how, when Sisky tunes back in, it’s to the Butcher stripping. Well. Getting undressed, anyway. Bill is pretty strict about the context for using the word, ‘stripping’. Which doesn’t negate that fact that the guy Sisky wants to do--whatever--with has his back turned and is slipping his stupid turquoise boxer-briefs down his legs.

Sisky is pretty glad he’s not the only one taken aback by this, well, at least, if Mike’s, “Dude!” and Tom’s, “Boundaries, man,” are anything to go by. Neither of them are blushing, though. Sisky ducks his head, forgets for a second that he’s not the one on trial here backstage under the dying notes at the end of Midtown’s first encore song. It’s because he’s looking down that he misses the transformation this time. Still, there’s a wolf there when he looks up who was not there before. That’s pretty hard to argue with.

Apparently Bill thinks so, too--at least, he’s stopped trying to argue. Instead he’s just sort of standing there, gaping, though, which doesn’t seem like much of an improvement. Somehow, it’s Tom who’s the most level-headed and matter-of-fact about it, actually thinking enough to look down and, addressing the wolf directly, which should feel weirder than it does, says, “Do you think maybe you should change back now, before Midtown gets back?”

Apparently the Butcher agrees, because in the space of a blink, he’s there again, looking nervous and disheveled on the floor backstage. It’s kind of a picture-perfect moment, actually—the dying strains of Midtown’s last song stretch out over the otherwise awkward and still mildly stunned silence, and the moment seems trapped that way for longer than should actually be able to fit in the space of the scant seconds before Andy starts to scramble back into his clothes as Midtown troops offstage.

Andy is sure he’s never been so glad to see Gabe Saporta in his life. The feeling doesn’t even evaporate when Gabe says something about how the encore must really have gotten Andy hot, the way he’s dressed (or not dressed) right now. He doesn’t even mind when the rest of the band pick it up and run with it, start planning out their own nudist colony. For one thing, it’s nice to hear them speaking as though they like each other again, but much more importantly, it’s another handful of seconds where Andy doesn’t have to have that conversation that ended so abruptly as soon as Midtown walked off-stage.

He shouldn’t have to, anyway. Sisky apparently doesn’t agree, though. He ignores the backslapping and hesitant truce from the sweat-stained guys in their midst. Instead, he turns to Andy and asks, “How long?”

“All my life, I guess.” It’s one question Andy hadn’t actually been prepared to answer, but he is being honest. Sisky looks a little disappointed, enough that Andy has to add in a quick, “Sorry I don’t have a more interesting origin story.”

Gabe chimes back in long enough to ask, “’How long’ what, dude? Please don’t tell me you just came out right now—we’ve known you for forever at this point, practically.”

He’s right, even if it’s not in the way he thinks he is, so Andy nods, says, “Sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it, though. And I’d never hurt any of you.”

Gabe mostly looks confused by that, but Sisky actually laughs. “Duh, I mean, even when I was just making shit up I knew that.”

It’s good to hear. It’s good enough to hear that Andy doesn’t even feel like an idiot asking, “Adam Siska, will you be my cold-pizza-and-Jack-in-the-back-of-the-trailer-tonight date?”

He’s pretty sure he would have eventually started to feel like an idiot, though, if Sisky hadn’t said yes.

A few months later, it’s honestly more surreal most of the time that Pete actually followed through on the, “Getting my own label so that I can sign you guys for real, I swear,” than it is that their drummer is a werewolf.

Sisky says that’s just because Andy’s a shitty werewolf, but he mostly only says that after Andy has refused to maim someone that’s getting on his nerves, so Andy doesn’t take it too personally.