The sign on the door reads, "Thank you for visiting Gerard Way's Vampire Detective Agency. If calling after daylight hours, please speak with Mr. Iero upon arriving. If calling during the day, please come back at night."
The first thing Frank thinks is that the grandfather clock is not supposed to be moving like that, kind of ambling along down the hallway and, if Frank wasn't misunderstanding the twisted glass front, trying to be inconspicuous about it. The second thing he thinks is that the grandfather clock is not supposed to be moving at all, and then everything is full of chimes like it is high noon and Gerard is urgently waving him down the hallway as the grandfather clock shudders, crouches down, and takes flight. It is quite deft at navigating the third floor of the mansion, which had been used to store furniture that was not currently in use. Most of the larger pieces are draped with sheets, and that is where Gerard beckons him, to hide with him under what Frank belatedly realizes is an alarmingly small tea table. Frank pulls his knees close up to his chest so his toes don't peek out from under the sheet, but it brings his side flush up against Gerard, who is using a pair of binoculars to try to locate something through the fabric of the sheet.
"I think it's gone downstairs," Gerard says, lowering the binoculars and blinking as his eyes refocus on Frank. "I'm sorry, Frank, haunted clocks aren't usually this mobile. This makes the case so much clearer now," Gerard says, a note of triumph creeping into his voice. "The clock may be haunted, but the piano is most certainly possessed."
"Isn't it going to be able to find us?" Frank whispers, as the clock chimes out the quarter hour and then the half hour a moment later. "The clock knew the moment we arrived."
"Oh, I'm much more worried about the piano," Gerard says, and the moment Gerard says it, Frank can hear the distant tinkling of out of tune piano keys between the clock chimes.
Frank imagines an airborne piano splintering the tea table to kindling.
Gerard's hand brushes Frank's, though Frank puts it down to the very limited amount of movement afforded them. "Do you think you can get us both over the stair rail?" Frank nods, and Gerard's fingers brush over Frank's hand again, just for a moment before Gerard says, "On my count – one, two –"
The three was unspoken as Frank grabs Gerard's shoulders and leaps, guiding them both, a little gracelessly, onto the landing, where they run for the door. Gerard stands, for an impossible moment, in the open doorway, his arms flung wide, a grand piano soaring straight for him. Frank doesn't think it will fit through the door, but enough of it would survive the crash to impale Gerard. Frank is not about to argue Gerard's methods during a case, but it was most certainly his duty to make sure Gerard did not die by provoking a possessed piano, no matter how much the solution to the Salpeter case rested on proving the malicious intent of the instrument. Just as Frank is about to run at Gerard and catch him around the middle to knock him out of the doorway, the soaring piano stops, hovers, and sets itself down in the foyer as though it had entertained many concerts in that exact spot.
"I knew it!" Gerard says with relish. He steps cautiously into the foyer, Frank a step behind him, and plays a scale with a flourish. "Possessed or not, the fact that the piano - "
"Sir!" Frank shouts, knocking Gerard onto the floor just as the grandfather clock sweeps by and smashes itself to pieces against the opposite wall. Frank promptly takes out a handkerchief and begins to wipe away debris from Gerard's face and shoulders.
"Thank you, Frank," Gerard says.
"Not at all, Gerar – Mr. Wa – sir," Frank stutters. The lifesaving part of the job came pretty easily, but the manners, oh, the manners were hell.
Being a valet for Gerard Way, the famous midnighter detective, Frank reflects, is not really as easy as Gerard had made it sound when he offered him the job. Frank had just been a messenger then, and the Way Mansion hadn't even been on his route, but it was the full moon and they were short-staffed, and Frank didn't actually expect to meet the detective himself.
"You're a very nice zombie, but it's just not working out." Frank heard the voice shouting as he came in the main door, which had been left ajar. "You're simply not active enough, and while I appreciate your efforts at service, I just need someone whose midnighter range is a little wider. I'm not saying all zombies are inappropriate for service positions, but it depends entirely on the manner of death and resurrection and you're just a little too. . . slow." The zombie had groaned. Drool, or possibly brains, had leaked out of its mouth. A short man with a stern expression had escorted the zombie out. Frank had tried to get Gerard's attention, but he was covering his eyes with what seemed to be a tea towel. "Brian, I feel so terrible about firing him, but he took, like, half an hour to hand me a folder, and I'm not really sure his zombie master re-taught him the alphabet very well, because his filing was atrocious."
"Uh," Frank said, holding out a letter. "Delivery from Pencey Prep."
"Oh," Gerard said, looking up to realize that he wasn't talking to who he expected, "Oh, thank god you're here. I was sure they'd tell me they didn't have anyone to spare, but I think they're just afraid I'll steal away their best servants. Now, come on, tell me about yourself, what your preferred rates are, what your preferred midnighter schedule is, whether or not you're allergic to coriander."
"There are midnighter creatures allergic to coriander?"
"Not really, but I am, and I'd feel less alone if I found someone else who has a spice allergy."
"I just brought this letter," Frank finally managed to say through his boggled state. "I think they're probably telling you they're short staffed, it's what I've been delivering all day."
Gerard frowned at him. "So they didn't send you as a replacement valet?"
"Uh, no," Frank said. Gerard looked quite heartbroken.
Frank was not sure what that really meant, but he finally said, "I'm not a valet."
Gerard eyed him keenly. "Well, I'm sure you could learn if you wanted the job."
They had an accidental staring match because Frank wasn't really sure how he was being bullied into taking a position he was barely qualified for with one of the most prestigious households in town.
"Uh," Frank said, and then, because there was no real other answer, "ok."
Gerard's face lit up. "I'll write back to Pencey, and look in the file drawer, there, there's a paper with the salary and vacation."
Frank opened the file drawer but found instead a giant mummified spider. "Ugggggggh," Frank said. He offered it emphatically to Gerard.
"Oh my god, that zombie really couldn't file," Gerard said, examining the spider. "Mummified spiders go under "s" for spider, not "u" or "uggggggh."
Frank found two more mummified spiders before he discovered the file with salary and vacation. He stared at it a long time.
"Is the vacation not enough?" Gerard asked anxiously. "The salary has to be better than Pencey's paying you, since I know they have to get by trying not to pay you, despite what their charter says. And I can't really give you more vacation since it'll become abundantly clear that I need a valet for pretty much everything, every moment of the day. The midnighter detective business is busy and I'm not always the most not-forgetful person. But you know the hours are all evening, I sometimes have to take cases during the day but you are never required to come with me if there's a risk of sunlight. You can have rooms here, and the house is sunlight-proofed, 10 degrees beyond the Wentzian index."
"It's just," Frank said and stopped because Gerard looks really, really concerned. "This is a really good job. You don't even know if I can make up a bed."
"Oh, I'm sure you can," Gerard said evenly, but there was something warm in his voice and Frank flustered. "Here, take this back to Pencey," Gerard said, handing him a letter, "and pack up your stuff and have them deliver it express, an hour before dawn. Brian will have to interview you later."
Frank suddenly understood that Brian was the stern-looking man who had escorted the zombie out. Which meant it had to be Brian Schechter – the Brian Schechter – the sorcerer.
Gerard must have seen that Frank looked nervous and so he said, "Oh, don't worry, he's just very protective, and I think he gets a weird sort of glee out of following the Hiring Code of Non-Human Personnel. He likes codes."
Frank was not certain that was at all reassuring. "So I guess I'll be back in an hour," Frank said, thinking he didn't have all that much stuff to pack up.
"Hey," Gerard said when Frank turned to leave, "What's your name?"
"Frank," he said, and Gerard beamed.
"See you soon, Frank," Gerard said, and put the tea towel back over his face.
Cleaning up at Pencey didn't take very long, and no one was really that surprised that Frank was leaving, until he told them where he was going and everyone sort of stared at him. He went back to his apartment where Dewees had broken in again and was lying, shirtless, across the kitchen floor. Frank had known Dewees years before he was brought back as a zombie, and he broke into Frank's apartment and crashed randomly on his floor just as often reanimated as he had when he had been alive. "'M tired, man," Dewees said and Frank walked past and nudged him with his foot. "You're not supposed to be back until dawn."
"This is my apartment, bitch, I can come in whenever I want." He hesitated, because he almost didn't want to tell Dewees the news until it was real, until he'd passed the sorcerer's interrogation, but he couldn't help it. "Actually, you can stay here, if you can pay the rent," Frank said. Dewees opened his eyes and looked up at him from the floor.
"Oh my god, Frankie, you're not talking a Long Sunlit Walk are you? Step away from the light!"
"That would be a lot more convincing," Frank said, "If you could get your ass off my floor. And no, I'm not suiciding, I have a new job."
"That gives you room and board?"
"Did you sell your body again?"
"Fuck you, and that was not what happened that time. I'm a valet."
Dewees was struck silent. "How in the world did you - you don't even know how to - "Frank nodded as Dewees struggled to find the words. "Whose valet?"
Dewees sat up so hard he hit his head on the table and his eye popped out.
"Put that shit away," Frank said, as Dewees reached for his eye and popped it back in.
"Valet for the greatest detective of our time?" Dewees asked, incredulous. Frank explained how he was delivering the letter just as Gerard's valet was being relieved of duty. "Are you sure you didn't make a deal with a shaman or something, Frankie? That's good luck right there."
Frank just shrugged. "I need to be there before sun-up."
"Do you have a suit?" Dewees asked, knowing the answer before he asked the question, and Frank frowned. "You at least have a shirt with a collar, right? Jamia never bought you a shirt with a collar? Oh, you left them all behind, didn't you." Frank shook his head and Dewees looked him up and down and scowled. "You can borrow one of mine."
"I'm not going there smelling like a zombie."
"That insult is in violation of the Clan Code for Creature Stereotyping. I keep my clothes very clean, and a little bit of lemon and vinegar goes a long way to keeping me fresh."
"Keep that information to yourself," Frank said, but Dewees was already crawling back out the window, heading for his place.
"I'll be back in five minutes," Dewees had said. "And you're wearing a tie."
"You don't have to go out the window," Frank said, but Dewees just slid out and down the back of the building.
"You'll look cute in a tie, Frankie," he shouted. "My boy, working for the famous detective! In a tie!"
Live in an area with a high zombie population? Remember to keep ham on hand.
Most zombies are not dangerous, and can be welcome additions to your neighborhood. Sometimes, though, zombies are not properly cared for by their zombie masters and get lost and confused. If you interact with a zombie who does not appear to be acting rationally, cannot speak even when you command it to, appears to be repeatedly walking into things, or is exhibiting any aggressive behavior, offer the zombie some ham. Ham has been found to be a universal zombie sedative, and in 90% percent of the cases where there was a sub-normal zombie incident, ham was found to stop the zombie from continuing in its unwanted behavior. (In 9 percent of cases where ham was refused, tofu was the most successfully accepted brain-replacement food item.)
Attached please find a coupon that can be used at your local deli.
"Good morning, Mr. Way. Here's your coffee." Frank almost stumbles over the greeting, since his days usually begins with "Good evening, here's your coffee."
"It's late, Frank, shouldn't you be in your coffin?" Gerard says, squinting at Frank with that unique look of concern mixed with an attempt to seem authoritative. Gerard had spent all night writing up his notes on the culpability and destruction of the Salpeters' grandfather clock, insisting he get all the details recorded before he went out on this morning's appointment, and Frank had stayed up to help, even though it was ridiculous to think that Frank would remember some detail that Gerard's sharp mind would forget.
"I'm perfectly fine for a few hours, sir," Frank says, though he tries and fails to stifle a yawn in his sleeve. "You have a case this morning. I thought you would need your coffee." Frank watches Gerard's reflection in the mirror of Gerard's dressing table, where Gerard is repeatedly brushing his hair away from his forehead. It's taken him some time to get used to the fact that he can't see his own reflection even though he's standing just behind Gerard. It made getting his tie on straight a real bitch the first couple of weeks.
"Indeed, I most certainly do," Gerard says gratefully. "It's easy to forget that the people who prefer to do business during sunlight hours expect the same quality of service from me, with or without my valet."
"Mr. Vaughn Stump did say he required secrecy, so perhaps he insisted on the daylight meeting on purpose?"
"Oh, I'm sure of it," Gerard says. "The coffee's delicious," Gerard adds, taking a long, luxurious sip.
"Thank you, sir," Frank says, not actually trying to hide his smile even though he knows a valet isn't supposed to be proud of making his master excellent coffee. Frank has a hard time choosing humility over pride.
"If I'm driving you, we should get going," a disembodied voice declares. "I don't want to get caught up in the market traffic."
"I really wish he could just walk over here, instead of magically shouting," Gerard says and Frank nods his agreement. "Talking without your body is rude, Brian," Gerard shouts in return.
"Hurry up," is all the voice responds.
When Frank met Brian Schechter for his job interview, all that Frank knew about him was that he was rumored to be an extremely powerful sorcerer, and that he'd worked for the Way family for as long as anyone could remember.
"I need to ask you a few questions before we can officially hire you," Brian had said, polite but rigid. "Though let's be clear about one thing, I may be just the formality as far as Gerard is concerned, but I am here to make sure nothing happens to him. So, fill out this sheet and let me know when you're ready."
All Frank saw was a short, muscley guy with lots of tattoos and some very effectively narrowed eyes. If Schechter was as powerful a magician as they said, then he was good at hiding it. Usually magicians broadcast from miles away, at least to other midnighters. Schechter read to Frank like he shouldn't let the guy get too close to his wallet, not that Schechter could bring down the house if he thought hard enough. Frank wondered if it was something in between, or whether Schechter was just excellent at deception. The tattoos, though, were probably totally magical.
"Are you a class 1, class 2, class 3, unknown class, or something this code does not yet define," Schechter read from a stack of papers in an even voice. He looked up at Frank, who realized he was staring at him open-mouthed, and added, "If at any point you feel these questions unfairly target you as a midnighter - "
"No, no, it's ok," Frank said. "It's just that no one has ever read the Hiring Code to me. Usually they just assume, or it doesn't really matter. Pencey didn't care if I was turned voluntarily or not, as long as I had my Clandestine certification, that's all that mattered."
Schechter kind of frowned and so Frank added quickly, "I'm a class 2, level b."
"Turned before death from an illness. No wonder you look so scrawny," Schechter said and Frank cracked a smile. "So not quite voluntary, but you're transitioning well?"
"No identity crisis," Frank said.
"Are you master to any class 1 or 2 midnighter beings, including partial mastery of zombies?" Schechter asked.
"No," Frank said, and then, thinking it's better to seem totally upfront, "I have a friend who's a zombie, but he's got his own master. Sometimes he crashes at my apartment, though."
Schechter nodded without comment. "Were you turned before, during, or after the full enactment of the Clandestine Code of Voluntary Blood Loss? I know you said you were a level b, but there were a surprising number of violations before that Code went into effect."
Frank could only imagine. There was a ton of fucking paperwork when he was turned, and he could see why some people might have wanted to skip that step. "I was turned after. I have all my papers and I've never fed on a daylighter outside of a Clan clinic, and that was only when I was new and still trying to get my teeth to work."
Schechter held up his hands. "I can't officially ask you that information," he said and Frank shook his head.
"Nah, it's ok, I'm not shy about it. I didn't become a vampire to feast on humanity. I just didn't want to die of a lung infection before I turned 25."
Schechter nodded and made a few checks on the top sheet of paper. After he got to about the middle of the page, he asked, "Do you have any experience in detecting or human-midnighter law?"
"I temped as a paralegal for a few months," Frank said after a thoughtful pause. "Their office was taken over by a poltergeist, but only during the day. So, they went to a nocturnal temp agency to fill in the gaps."
"What kind of poltergeist keeps daytime hours?"
"I think he had a grudge against one of the attorneys. No one wanted to talk about it. So I know some legal language and how some of the process of filing a case works, but I've never solved a case or anything."
Schechter said, "It's not a requirement, you'll just find it helps you to understand what Gerard is talking about. It's entirely up to you how much involvement you have in the actual detective agency, but it's pretty hard to separate Gerard's home life from his work, so, I should also show you the legal library, incase you wanted to do any reading. Can I have a look at your paperwork?"
Frank shuffled it out of his bag. "I'm looking for valid Clan number, valid address, last place of employment," Schechter said as he scanned down the pages. "And by valid address here I only mean an actual address and that you were not squatting. I make no judgments about any sort of form of living space."
"It's ok," Frank said. "I got an apartment right away through the Midnighter Housing Assistance Program. My old place was not sun-proofed."
Schechter rifled through the papers Frank had handed him, and then passed his hand over it as though reading it through his palm, which was the first sign that Frank had that the rumors about Schechter's magic weren't unfounded.
"I'll need to check your references before you're officially hired, but you seem great. We've had a lot of trouble keeping valets – we're a weird operation, not like other service positions, you should know that up front. You can't really have a job description that isn't fluid when you work for Gerard," Schechter said. "Still, here are the specs of the house, the midnighter-compliance, the Clan-code compliance. You are responsible for your own safety and your awareness of your own limits and requirements as the Clan Code says, but if there's something you need or something you see that isn't working, talk to Gerard or talk to me. Despite our record, we really are interested in keeping a valet for more than a couple of weeks." Frank could tell he wasn't lying; there was something quite earnest about him, sorcerer or not. "This applies to every room in the house except the greenhouse, which is down the corridor to the left, at the back of the house. It's all glass windows, no sun shield, it's no good for the plants. And it locks from the outside so Gerard won't want you to go in there at all, even at night, the risk is too great you could get accidentally trapped."
Frank wouldn't consider it. Glass windows in an enclosed room with a lock set off all sorts of alarms, even if he went out there at night. It was the sort of place daylighters would lock a midnighter, way before the Clan Code, when there were more attacks.
"Gerard likes plants," Schechter had said with a shrug, "It's kind of a weird hobby for someone with his hours, but he's kind of a weird guy. You're free to go anywhere in the house, and unless there are some secret rooms in here I haven't discovered yet, this map should help you get around. Welcome to the Way Mansion," Schechter said with a grin. "You can find Gerard in his office. Pretty much all the time."
If Frank had any doubt that Gerard lived in the same building as the detective agency's office, it was erased his first night there when was summoned to Gerard's office and found him there in his pajamas. "I had a thought about the Salpeter case," Gerard began without bothering to explain what the Salpeter case was about or how he thought Frank could help him. "If the haunted piano isn't really haunted, then it shifts the whole investigation to the grandfather clock. How's your room?" Gerard asked abruptly and Frank took a second to switch gears.
"Oh, it's huge," Frank said. "I mean, it's fine. But huge." After a moment, Frank added, "How do you prove the piano isn't haunted?"
"Exactly!" Gerard said.
That was the first Frank had heard of the Salpeter case and the murderously haunted objects. He realizes there's a splinter from the clock remains under his fingernail as he helps Gerard on with his traveling cloak. Gerard notices Frank examining his hand and becomes very concerned. "That's it, I'm not going," Gerard says abruptly.
"It's just a splinter, sir, I'm fine."
"What if there are more you missed? What if you get wood poisoning while I'm gone!?"
"He won't get wood poisoning from a splinter," Schechter's disembodied voice rings out. "Get in the carriage."
"You promise you won't wait up for me and you'll go back into your coffin?"
"Yes, sir," Frank says automatically, though he had been considering waiting up.
Mr. Vaughn Stump had sent correspondence to arrange a meeting with Gerard, in the daylight, at 9 in the morning, so not even close to dawn. It was clear that Mr. Vaughn Stump wanted to have a meeting alone. Which isn't all that odd, considering who Mr. Vaughn Stump is, and considering who he represents. Like Gerard, he is a daylighter who straddles the divide between worlds, helping the midnighters by having access to the daylighter world and things they can't have. Mr. Vaughn Stump is Pete Wentz's right hand man, the one Pete says keeps him together. And so when he sent a letter asking to schedule an appointment with Gerard, Frank assumed it was a part of Pete's business, and obviously, therefore, secretive, because so many of the things Pete is working on rely on secrecy. Frank was not offended, but Gerard was offended on his behalf.
"It's just insane," Gerard says, "And rude, I think, to not invite you. He knows I take you everywhere."
Frank does not say that it is uncommon for valets to be included in meeting plans, even if Frank goes with Gerard to crime scenes, client interviews, suspect interrogations, society parties, and visits to Mrs. "call me Donna" Way. Gerard does his best to make sure his customers know that Frank comes with him on cases, and Frank has seen no end of daylighters yawning their way through 2 am appointments with Gerard, drinking whole pots of coffee. Sometimes, though, cases like this come up, when the person either cannot meet at night or insists on meeting in the daytime. It is Gerard's right to refuse, like any business with hours of operation. Gerard had not refused Mr. Vaughn Stump and Frank understands. There are just some things it doesn't make sense to do, not even on principle on behalf of your valet.
"I don't expect to be out long," Gerard says, and when Frank is about to interrupt him that Mr. Vaughn Stump had scheduled the meeting for several hours, over brunch. "Regardless of what Patrick says," Gerard says, noticing the look on his face.
"He mentioned he'd be serving French toast," Frank says.
"Oooh, French toast!" Gerard says, and then he frowns. "I won't be bribed by food, no matter how delicious. I don't like traveling without you."
Frank helps Gerard on with his coat, warmed by Gerard's protests on his behalf and the fact that he hadn't said he didn't like being without his valet – but specifically Frank. They meant the same thing, of course, but it still made Frank feel appreciated.
Frank hears the front door and thinks Schechter's impatience has finally driven him to use more than his voice when a heavily cloaked figure comes rushing by in a hurry to get to the stairs.
"Mikey!" Gerard shouts. The clocked figure stops and then reluctantly turns. Frank can barely see Mikey's face under all the covering. "Take that ridiculous thing off, where did you even get a cloak like that?"
Mikey does not answer, but pulls off the cloak. He's still wearing sunglasses and a large hat, and the collar of his shirt is turned up and buttoned all the way up under his chin.
"Where have you been?" Gerard asks.
Mikey removes his hat before answering, "Out."
"With Pete?" Gerard asks.
Mikey peers out from behind his sunglasses at his brother, smiles winningly at Frank, and then runs up the stairs, stopping at the mezzanine to unbutton the abnormally high collar of his shirt.
"Mikey, while you're up there, could you get me the urban horticulture guide? I need something to read in the carriage."
Mikey just stares down at Gerard.
"I'll get it, sir," Frank says, and leaps up to the mezzanine, into the library, retrieves the book, and leaps back down in a matter of seconds.
"Did you see how he just did that?" Mikey says, leaning over the railing and gesturing between Frank and Gerard.
"I'm sorry, should I not - " Frank says at the same time, Gerard says, "I said no, Mikey!"
Mikey decided to plead his case to Frank. "Being a vampire is cool!"
Frank nods, though cautiously. "But so's being not un-dead," Frank says, trying his best to stay out of an argument between Gerard and Mikey. Any argument between them is best to stay out of, but this one is an old one and still going strong. Gerard gestures emphatically at Frank.
"Mikey," Gerard says, irritated. "It's just because of who you're hanging out with, it doesn't mean you need to become a vampire."
Suddenly, Mikey's extremely sun-protective get-up seems highly suspicious to Frank.
Mikey just rolls his eyes at both of them. "I just don't think it's such an unreasonable thing to want, not anymore. Not with the new laws." Mikey says, and then when Gerard just stares at him, Mikey huffs and walks off.
Frank was just thinking that Gerard was being unusually quiet about the whole thing when Gerard explodes into a series of expletives about little brothers and Pete Wentz. "I mean, no offense," Gerard says, suddenly looking deeply concerned that he had offended Frank. "I really like vampires, I do, but I think it's kind of a dramatic life choice for my brother to be making at his age, regardless of what sort of thing that Wentz is telling him."
Frank already agrees.
Gerard Way is infamous for several things, the first and most significant is that he was one of the very few non-supernatural individuals to make the midnighter community their permanent residence. Gerard is human, and that was it. No magical powers, either, unless you considered his skills as a private detective their own brand of magic, which some certainly did. Gerard is uniquely gifted at moving between the daylighter and midnighter communities, allowing him to solve cases no one else could handle. By living in the community and keeping midnighter hours, as well as his obvious and genuine empathy with midnighter clientele, Gerard earned their trust, and his ability to retain human legal privileges and function in the daylighter community without any additional accommodations (apart from coffee) meant that Gerard was rarely short on business.
Gerard's Vampire Detective Agency was started (and named) when vampires were his primary clients, though soon he was investigating cases for werewolves, zombies, and countless other supernatural creatures that couldn't get due legal consideration in cases regarding daylighters. Midnighter cases often featured exceptional issues that the human legal system was ill-equipped to deal with, such as sunlight-poisoning and crypt real estate and the complex but unspoken rules of turning. Gerard never revealed to Frank what his first real (or his first paying) case was, midnighter clientele not always being able pay, or at least not in a traditional way.
Everyone knows, though, the case that made him famous: the attack on Pete Wentz the day the Clandestine Code of Midnighter Rights was enacted into law.
Crafted by Wentz, the renowned vampire activist, the Clandestine Code for Midnighter Rights encompassed an entire movement of midnighter-daylighter cooperation, above and beyond the traditional service roles that midnighters so often occupied. The Clan Code made provisions for legal and consensual vampire feeding, werewolf sick leave, haunting rights, and hundreds of other supernatural-creature specific guidelines the then-current daylighter legal system or system of employment didn't take into account. Daylighter shops that also served midnighters were required to keep certain night hours, buildings had to be sun-proofed, a common language of commands had to be established for use by zombie masters, and exorcisms, except in cases of extreme peril, were required to be consensual.
The Clan Code also enacted a series of laws for the midnighter community that set up a network of employment, housing, food, and social adjustment support, establishing safe guidelines for consensual inter-midnighter transformation, punishments for non-consensual supernatural acts, and rights within the midnighter community for midnighters who passed as daylighters and kept exclusively daylight hours.
The transformation was almost instantaneous and the success was widespread. It was as though daylighter employees just needed a standardized method for hiring non-human personnel, and the frequent communication in the form of widely distributed pamphlets informing both midnighters and daylighters of changes in practice kept rumors and misunderstandings to a minimum.
But then Pete Wentz was found beaten unconscious and left tied up in a public park with morning sun exposure just one month after the establishment of the Clan Code reformation. He was found before the sun had fully risen, but the sun poisoning on top of his injuries left him close to fatal death. When he had just barely recovered, he enlisted Gerard to investigate the case, to bring his attackers to justice.
When Gerard solved the Wentz case just a week after the attack, bringing dual midnighter-daylighter charges against a group of fairies who objected to Pete's willingness to cooperate so readily with humans, he had become the glue that held the two communities together during a crisis.
Just after Gerard's carriage has left, Mikey brings down a handful of mail and places it in the basket by the door. He waves hello to Frank, who is replacing candles in sconces, and heads off for his brother's office before Frank can point out that Gerard isn't there. Mikey returns a moment later, studies Frank picking at a particularly wax-laden sconce fitting, and then says, "Is Gerard really out during the day?"
It's not as unusual as Mikey's disbelief might make it seem, but Gerard does rarely go out during the day. Since most of his business clientele keeps midnighter hours, his schedule naturally re-adjusts, and from what Frank has heard, Gerard was always like this, before there were cases to do at night, naturally suited to getting up when the sun went down.
"He has an appointment, sir," Frank says.
"Don't call me sir," Mikey says absently. "And what kind of appointment does he have during the day? Don't tell me the Governor's office doesn't have anymore open evening appointments. Or that he's taken another all-daylight investigation," Mikey says, his eyes widening. "You know he hates those. He was miserable during the last one."
"I recall, sir," Frank says, remembering how Gerard had been impatient, forgetful, irritable, and a complete mess until Schechter had to dose him with a sleeping potion, after which Gerard slept for three days straight. "The client would not accept any other time."
"I hope they're paying him in coffee. Who is so important that he's going out before noon?"
"He's meeting Mr. Vaughn Stump," Frank says.
Mikey looks momentarily horrified. "Patrick. Not Pete?"
"Weren't you just with Mr. Wentz? Or have you decided that dressing for sunlight protection is a new fashion statement?"
"Don't call him that," Mikey says. "And I was with him…earlier."
Mikey's clearly lying about something but Frank is just as wary of getting into an argument with Mikey alone. "It seems like it was only Mr. Vaughn Stump," Frank says, giving in.
Mikey seems relieved. "I know Pete and Gerard have things to work on with the Clan code, whatever," Mikey says dismissively. "But I don't want them, you know, spending time together. Like, having breakfast."
"It would be some feat to get Mr. Wentz out in the daylight, French toast or not," Frank says.
"True," Mikey says, and then, "My brother's on a breakfast date with Patrick. Weird." And then runs back up the stairs.
The phrase 'breakfast date' sticks in the air, even though Frank doesn't believe it and doesn't think Mikey meant it that way.
Not that Frank has any opinion about Gerard's social life. It's just that, as long as Frank's been working here, Gerard hasn't had much of one. The idea that Frank might be bringing up breakfast trays for two jumps into his head and he chases it out as quickly as possible. Valets don't have those sort of opinions about their masters. They don't.
Certainly Frank does not have opinions like that about Gerard. Gerard is – Mr. Way is – a phenomenally skilled investigator, who can solve any mystery, any puzzle, no matter how bizarre or seemingly impossible. Frank still remembers the first week working for Gerard, when he went back to Pencey to turn in his badge which he'd forgotten to do on his spontaneous last day. He'd assumed the trip would be so quick he didn't need to let anyone know where he was going. Frank had barely left the front walk of Pencey when Gerard appeared from behind a tree and just barely stopped himself from embracing Frank.
"I thought you were kidnapped!" Gerard had said. "You didn't leave a note, but I tracked you here after a brief cold trail that led to your old apartment, and there was a zombie there, he was quite helpful."
"You – tracked me?" Frank had said. He was barely sure he could have done the same thing for Gerard and he was the one with super-senses.
Gerard had just nodded. "This is what I do, Frank," Gerard had said with an air of competent delight, and Frank had never felt more humble in his life. Tracked by the great detective because he'd disappeared without leaving a note. Gerard – Mr. Way - helped bring about the change in the laws that allowed Frank to safely become a vampire. And Frank was just – he wasn't even a trained valet. So Gerard's business was his own, and Frank was there to be at his service, when he was needed.
So you've hired a vampire! Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Nosferatus Nocturnus, commonly known as "vampire":
Q: Do they miss the sunlight?
A: The destructive power of sunlight on a vampire usually overpowers any nostalgia they might feel.
Q: Can they hear my heartbeat from a mile away?
A: Yes, though only if they have established a close working or personal relationship with you.
Q: Can they turn into bats?
A: No, that's only the Chiropteran People of the Northwest.
It makes Frank itchy with impatience a few hours later when Gerard is running late. Frank knows it isn't actually appropriate to be angry when Gerard does not return from a meeting at the time he had said. He knows, but it doesn't stop him from being angry about it, sulking around by the door, even though there was no sign of his approaching carriage. Even though there was no chance that Gerard could arrive home without Frank actually noticing, without Frank hearing him from at least a mile off.
Gerard is Frank's one and only duty, and whenever Gerard is out, it leaves Frank out of sorts, with no one to attend to. After he does the laundry, laid out Gerard's clothes, instructs Cortez on the week's menus making sure to take into account Gerard's spice allergies, cleans up the files, makes a few notes about the open cases, even writes a few follow-up letters, he has nothing left to do.
Schechter has some runes nailed to his door so Frank can't even do anything for him (and didn't want to - the last time Schechter had had runes nailed to his door, Frank had knocked not knowing what they meant and 47 toads had hopped out the door. Frank had to chase them all down. He never told Schechter he had only counted 45 and still suspected there were a few living in the downstairs bath.)
Frank is pacing up and down the stairs, wondering if maybe he should clean the upstairs evidence rooms because there was always an inch of dust in there overnight, like snowfall, making it look like a haunted house. Frank suspected one of the cursed objects must be a dust-creator.
The evidence room isn't so much a filing system as it is a room full of precariously balanced items, too few of them in proper containers and almost none of them labeled in any manner that made sense to anyone other than Gerard. Which is fine, since Gerard has a keen visual memory and can remember that the yellow plumed hat from the Pope case was turned upside down to hold the contents of half a jigsaw puzzle that was a key clue in the Blackinton case. Gerard could probably tell what piece of the whole picture those puzzle pieces made. But it is Frank's intention to commandeer the room for a weekend and categorize everything, or at least sort by subject, so that someone other than Gerard – namely him, though sometimes Schechter and Mikey, could get in there, get the thing they needed, and not get yelled at for accidentally upending a crooked chair cushion (the chair that was instrumental in solving the Lipshaw mystery) which was somehow acting as the single stable support for the complete set of dining room table chairs, which had been stacked one on top of the other and tumbled out over the mezzanine and broke an antique table. Besides, it made it ridiculously difficult to dust, and if it was one of the cursed objects, it was only going to get worse day by day until the entire mountain of evidence was covered, indistinguishable under the dust, and even Gerard wouldn't be able to navigate through that.
One of the benefits of having vampire valets is their super senses, which, when tuned properly, acted like internal compass that pointed at their masters. So when Frank hears Gerard a few blocks away, Frank runs off to make coffee, and then, with the tray ready, stands behind the foyer sun curtain, and closes his eyes as Gerard opens the door. He can feel the sunlight against his eyelids, warm and dangerous. He doesn't miss the sun, exactly, because all of his instincts tell him to run from it, to hide from even the hint of the thing that could vaporize him in less than 30 seconds. But he misses the idea of the sun's warmth, the way it changed the way the day looked, the expressions on people's faces. He misses the way it sparkled on water, in a way no other light sparkled. And he's jealous of the fact that Gerard got to go into it.
Frank waits until the door is closed and the danger of the sun is gone to take his coat, but Gerard shrugs himself out of it and hands it to Frank. Gerard's face looks red from the sun, the material of his coat still warm, radiating, and Frank touches it, knowing it won't actually hurt him, but wondering, just the same.
"Cortez has dinner and if you'd like, I have some coffee. . . ." Frank trails off when it's clear Gerard is not actually listening. "Sir?" Frank tries, and then, "Gerard?"
Gerard seems to come back to himself with a shake of his head. "I need to talk to my brother. Pack a suitcase for him, you know what he'll need."
"What he'll need for what, sir?" Frank asks.
"Some time at our mother's."
"Did she send for – "
"No, she didn't send for him," Gerard says impatiently. "I'm sending him away."
"Yes, sir," Frank says, hurrying up the stairs.
Upstairs, Frank knocks on Mikey's door. "Your brother requests your presence right away, sir," Frank says, and begins opening drawers and pulling out Mikey's clothes.
"Did he find out something about Pete?" Mikey asks, noticing Frank's hurried packing.
"I don't think so," Frank says, though the urge to ask Mikey about the cloak and the sunglasses is back and he has to bite his tongue. If it means – if it means something, it is not Frank's place to ask. "I think there'd be more shouting. But he is very agitated, and he said he was sending you to your mother's."
"Ha!" Mikey says with a shout of triumph. "Like I don't know how to get away from Mom's."
Frank imagines that, yes, if Gerard wants Mikey locked up somewhere, the last place he is going to have success with it was the house they grew up in, where Mikey had years of practice breaking out. Gerard has either taken this into account, and set up some sort of security system, or is strong in his belief that his brother is better behaved than he actually is, and Frank isn't really going to talk to Gerard about it.
Mikey holds out his hand for Frank to shake and Frank does, first having to transfer a pair of Mikey's socks to his other hand.
"I'll see you soon," Mikey says.
"Whatever it's about - at least wait until the second day to break out," Frank says. Mikey just laughs and flies down the stairs.
Mikey puts on a good show, shouting that Gerard can't treat him like this, that he doesn't need to be watched by their mother, that it's unfair and disruptive, that Gerard can't control his life like this. Frank is less alarmed than he would have been if he hadn't seem Mikey's nonchalant reaction to where he was being sent, but he still thinks Mikey isn't really faking the part about Gerard controlling his life.
Frank hears the carriage pull up and loads Mikey's suitcases, and then steps aside as Mikey rushes out, pausing for a moment to grin at Frank as he pulls up his cloak again, wrapping himself in it like a blanket, and then climbs up into the carriage and takes off for his mother's.
Frank tries not to grin too much as he locks the door and comes back in, imagining Mikey hugging his mother, going to his room, and promptly climbing out the window.
He calls for Gerard. "Sir, was there something in particular that has caused you to send away the younger Mr. Way? Sir?" Frank adds when he can't seem to find Gerard anywhere. Finally, Gerard emerges from his office, a distant expression on his face.
"Sir," Frank says. "Did you need dinner?" He's concerned that Mikey's departure is taking its toll on Gerard, who seems lost. "Are you all right, sir?" Frank asks.
"Have dinner put on a tray and sent up to my rooms," Gerard says abruptly. "I need to visit the greenhouse first."
"Yes, sir," Frank says, hesitantly. He had wanted to ask Gerard about what had happened with Mr. Vaughn Stump, how the case was looking, why he'd been out so late, but if Gerard was going to the greenhouse, it meant he wanted to be alone. "Yes, sir," Frank says again sadly, and goes to the kitchen to tell Cortez. He looks back and thinks he sees something disconsolate in Gerard's expression, but he isn't sure it isn't just the fading warmth of the day.
Gerard's greenhouse is kind of an odd thing. Gerard's apparently uncanny ability to keep an indoor garden, producing fruits and plants and flowers, despite the fact that he was practically nocturnal and the majority of the plants he kept were non-midnighter, came quite as a surprise to Frank when he first learned about it. Gerard didn't strike Frank as the sort of person who was good at gardening, especially not when he spent most of his time awake at night, and the majority of things midnighters did when they said they were digging in the dirt was actually more about corpses rather than plants. The greenhouse made Gerard happy, though, when he'd tell Frank about the plants he was growing how they were doing, when he'd bring a plant inside for Frank to see.
Because Frank can't actually ever see the greenhouse during the day, when most of the plants were open and flowering, Gerard had never invited him into the greenhouse. Frank knows it was because it was so exposed, because it wasn't protected, because it had a door with a lock where Frank presumably could get locked in there until the sun came out. It was a really dangerous place for him to get stuck, Frank knows, but it was also the only room in the house Frank could not actually go into, and so it troubled him more than he wanted to acknowledge that he could see Gerard in the bath (covered over by bubbles of course) and he could see Gerard getting into bed and getting out of bed, and he could dress him and work with him and listen to him ramble away about case ideas, but he could not follow Gerard into the greenhouse.
People would send Gerard rare plant cuttings as thank yous for finishing cases, and Schechter would insist on examining them incase they proved to be poisonous which had only happened once, but apparently a plant that shoots tiny poisonous darts from its flowers into the palm of your hand is a hard thing to forget, because Schechter brought it up all the time.
Gerard stays in the greenhouse for several hours, until it is just nearly dark. Frank, who had already cleaned and straightened everything in the house that could be cleaned or straightened while he had been waiting for Gerard, ends up pacing the library, a copy of Tea Preferences of Various Creatures of the Night, An Addendum to The Valet's Guide open in his hands. Every once and a while, he flips a page. He learns that he is not, under any circumstances, to serve holly to werewolves and that it was poor taste to serve any herbal infusion that resulted in a red tea color to a vampire, which Frank figures was pretty much a given.
When the stars come out, Frank goes around opening the curtains at the back of the house where the starlight and the moonlight could come in. He sees Gerard come out of the greenhouse and lock it, pausing with his hand on the door as though he was about to reconsider and go back in. Before Frank can ask if something is wrong, there is a sharp rap at the door and Frank speeds to answer it.
It's Dewees. "Hey, man. Don't mean to bother you at work, but I'm actually on messenger duty. Whatever the Master says and all. Fuck, I don't have the shoes to be a messenger, almost twisted my ankle back there on the curb."
"So tell me the message already," Frank says, because he can feel Gerard lurking just behind his shoulder, and because Dewees sometimes needed prodding to get the point.
"Oh, it's not good, it's not good," Dewees says. "The Wentz is dead."
Frank freezes. He can feel Gerard stepping forward. "Mr. Way," Dewees says, offering kind of a half-bow.
"Dead?" Frank repeats.
"Murdered," Dewees says, and then he looks up at lights going on and doors opening down the street.
"Looks like word is getting around fast. I'd better go and finish my rounds. Bonne journée," Dewees says and shuffles off.
Frank turns to look at Gerard, whose mouth is set in a thin line. "Help me get my things, we need to go over there," Gerard says, as though pulling himself out of a stupor. "Quickly."
Frank goes upstairs and methodically gathers Gerard's traveling case, all the things he might need to investigate a case. They've had murders before, though not that many, because murders in the midnighter community are usually dealt with (or covered up) by the creature species, and murders in the daylighter community involve the police force, who Gerard tends to detest or be bored by, depending on the detective. This isn't just any other case, though, so Frank packs an extra set of clothes and some of Gerard's more sensitive equipment, and he changes his own outfit, because if they're going to the Decaydance Mansion, Frank is going to represent Gerard well.
Frank uses the excuse of getting dressed to distract himself from thinking about how Gerard had just been with Patrick, how Gerard had just sent Mikey away, how Gerard had hidden himself in the greenhouse as though there was something he didn't want to talk about. It doesn't mean - of course Gerard couldn't have been involved, it is just - it's - Frank will just wait for Gerard to explain and then he will understand everything.
Vocabulary Guide for the Newly Undead
As a newly undead midnighter, you might find that some words don't mean the same thing that they used to, or do not properly or accurately define or reflect the meaning you are trying to convey. Here are a few suggested common alternatives that you might consider. For an update on current terminology, sign up for the weekly Clan newsletter.
Dead: Of course, the most commonly used 'un-dead' may not apply to your situation. Post-dead has gained a new popularity, and the passing of a vampire might be referred to as post-dead death, (not to be confused with post-post-death, the revival of a vampire into a zombie.)
Heart: Many post-dead creatures do not have a functioning heart, but many phrases still refer to the heart. A promise of 'cross my heart' by a midnighter-to-midnighter is acceptable, but midnighter-to-daylighter might seem like deliberate deception.
Body: Many non-corporeal midnighter creatures must find a new way to refer to their physical-equivalent being. 'Essence' is no longer commonly used because of its frequent use to describe intelligent plant life. 'Form' is gaining popularity in major spirit communities, but there is no single agreed-upon term in common use.
Past life: Do not use this to refer to your previous daylighter existence. This could result in confusion especially in non-sorcerer-friendly circles, as the phrase has a specific meaning to sorcerer practices. Many individuals have simply begun to refer to their daylighter existence as their 'past.'
Gerard's already established a timeline while they're in the carriage over there. Frank had summoned warm bricks to warm the carriage and blankets, because if they were going to go as fast as Frank expected Gerard to want them to go, it was going to be a cold ride, and Frank, who turned whatever temperature the air around him was, wasn't really looking forward to being almost ice.
"Mikey saw Pete at 10:00 this morning," Gerard says without his usual disapproval of Mikey and Pete being in the same sentence. "They were at the Undead Oyster and Pete's driver dropped Mikey off at the house at noon. Mikey did not know where Pete was going with any certainty, but he had been talking about going to check on the new clinic on Grace Street. The last time Patrick heard from Pete was a message he received during our meeting at 4. That letter is now potentially the last thing Pete touched. And it might be our first clue."
"Did you see what was on it?" Frank asks.
Gerard shakes his head. "But I'm going to ask Patrick as soon as we get there."
"Sir," Frank says, when he starts scribbling notes into his notebook. "What was your meeting about? Was Mr. Vaughn Stump asking you to investigate a case?"
"Later," Gerard says, "We have a more pressing issue right now, and that's the fact that if we don't get the facts straight about this case soon, we're never going to. The moment someone like Pete dies, everything about it and everything about him becomes myth. I don't have time for myth," Gerard says, and he writes in his notebook for the rest of the trip.
There's a crowd outside of the mansion, but they are let through the gate, where a smaller crowd of important people are stirring around and carriages are starting to take up the generous parking area.
Pulling up to the Manor, Frank thinks how, like the attack when the Clan Code was enacted, it is Pete who falls victim to those who would challenge their community. Frank remembers it from a weird perspective, because he'd been considering becoming a vampire, but had been waiting for the Clan Code, which had been in the works for years, to finally come to pass, and he was worried he was going to get too sick before it happened. He just didn't feel safe being voluntarily turned until things changed. He was certain, like so many others, that the enacting of the Code would make all the difference. Then, Pete was outspoken about having no idea he'd be the first midnighter protected by the laws he wrote. He'd hired Gerard to investigate his attackers because it wasn't only his own safety resting on the solution to the case, but it had become a bigger cause: solving the case meant the Clan Code couldn't be undermined just because people were scared. Frank feels like the same thing is happening all over again – an attack on Pete, an attack on the community.
When they arrive, Frank hops out of the carriage as it's still moving, running so that the very second the carriage stops, he's there to open Gerard's door for him. Gerard gives him a smile, and Frank knows he shouldn't show off, but he can, and Gerard doesn't seem to mind.
Gerard doesn't bother greeting anyone in the crowd who, admittedly, haven't stopped their conversations with each other to say hello but rather to watch to see if Gerard can get in where they haven't been able to. Gerard has a reputation to be let in to places where a detective wouldn't ordinarily be welcomed, and the party involved usually realizes that Gerard is their only hope if they want to win the case.
As expected, Gerard is ushered in to the foyer, and Frank is almost left outside, but Gerard tugs on Frank's sleeve and pulls him inside as the doors are closing, Gerard eyeing the front door valet as if daring him to ask Gerard to leave Frank outside.
"Take me to see the body," Gerard says to the first Alex he sees. Pete has about five of them, who seem to share a single consciousness. This one is young, and has a lot of hair, and looks terrified as soon as he sees Gerard.
"Mr. Way!" the Alex says, looking around until another Alex comes to his side. "Alex will you show you," the Alex says, and then practically runs off.
There's a third Alex guarding the door to Pete's study. He nods at the Alex with Gerard and Frank, and then steps aside. The Alex guiding them does not follow them in, but closes the door behind them.
Pete is lying in the middle of the floor, like he's been arranged that way, his eyes closed, his mouth open, a stake in the middle of his chest. The room is unusually cool. Frank wonders if they're doing it to preserve the body.
"Wait outside," Gerard hisses suddenly to Frank. He doesn't know what Gerard has seen, or whether he needs the room to himself, but Frank's perfectly happy to oblige. Frank's been on a lot of cases with Gerard, but none of them were high profile murders, and seeing the body of someone he knows, someone like Pete, is especially alarming.
"I'll be right outside, sir," Frank says, but Gerard is distracted by something on the carpet and doesn't answer and so Frank steps outside, closing the door quietly. One of the Alex's is still keeping guard. He nods at Frank when Frank steps out. "Which Alex are you?" Frank asks after a moment of uncomfortable quiet.
"I'm not sure what you mean, sir," the Alex says.
Frank ought to correct him, because they're both servant staff and he shouldn't technically have to call Frank sir, even if he's with Gerard Way. He's trying to ask how to tell them apart, but he thinks that's part of the Alexes, they don't see why everyone has so much trouble with figuring out who they are, or why there's so much confusion. "When did you start working for the house?"
"I came with the other two Alexes, about a month ago, sir." He pauses, thinking, "There is another Alex, who now works for Mr. Saporta's household."
Frank nods. "Did you discover the body?" The Alex shivers and Frank knows the answer is no before the Alex says it.
"I believe it was Mr. Vaughn Stump, sir," The Alex says. And then, in a whisper, "I haven't been in. Is it terrible?"
"Not gruesome," Frank says, trying to be both honest and not frighten the Alex, who looks younger by the minute. "But still frightening."
The Alex nods with some difficulty.
"Where is Patrick, I need to speak with Patrick?" Gerard comes storming out of the room. "Secure this room. Don't let anyone in. And don't go in yourself," he says to the Alex, who nods, looking nervous. Gerard runs into the hallway the way they came in, not even waiting for Frank, who has to run to catch up with him.
Gerard rushes up and asks the red-headed gentleman sitting on the steps staring at his hands. "Andy," Gerard says, shaking the gentleman's shoulder. "Where is he?" He must be Mr. Hurley, another of Pete's trusted advisors.
"He's telling Joe," Andy says, and then, "Upstairs, second room on the right." Gerard takes off up the stairs, but Andy catches Frank before he follows. "Does Mikey know?" he asks quietly.
"Not yet," Frank says, and Andy nods.
"I'll send someone to find him."
"He's at his mother's," Frank says. "Or at least that's where he last was."
As Frank starts up the stairs after Gerard, he meets who he knows must be Mr. Trohman on the way down. Mr. Trohman goes and sits on the stairs next to Mr. Hurley and Frank follows down the hall to the second right. The door is ajar, and Frank knocks, keeping his distance so as not to inappropriately overhear or interrupt. He hears both voices, Gerard and Mr. Vaughn Stump go silent, and then Gerard says, "It's ok, Frank, you can come in."
Mr. Vaughn Stump is wearing his black top hat indoors, and Frank's instinct is to hold his hand out to offer to hang the hat up, but he knows well enough by now that Mr. Vaughn Stump always wears a hat, indoors or out. Gerard has his jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, and Frank gently reaches behind the chair, lifting the jacket off the back of it and folding it gently before returning it.
"Andy took it pretty hard, and Joe just looked stunned," Mr. Vaughn Stump says, continuing their conversation once Frank has settled into the room. He leans closer to Gerard and says quietly, "And Ross is here." Gerard's entire demeanor changes and Frank watches as Gerard attempts to compose himself.
"Close the door, would you, Frank?" Gerard asks, and Frank does so. "Where were you today?" Gerard asks in a voice perhaps louder than necessary. "Hour by hour, please, with places and witnesses who can vouch for you. Two for each place, if you can."
Frank finds a way to busy himself with looking around the room while Mr. Vaughn Stump gives Gerard a timeline and his alibis. Frank had sometimes taken notes for Gerard, or studied the witness so he could answer when Gerard asked him later if he'd thought they were lying. Frank had hoped he'd have some sort of super-human ability to tell lies from the truth, but both daylighters and midnighters were complicated, and sometimes Frank was right about when they'd been lying and sometimes he was completely wrong, and they really had been visiting their grandmother at her crypt or shopping for a miniature komodo dragon at the local pet store.
Frank feels as though he is eavesdropping on Mr. Vaughn Stump's interrogation, though, even though he knows Gerard would send him away if he thought that was the case. He does his best to be present without actually listening, as much as he can. Still, his curiosity wins out.
Mr. Vaughn Stump had been at the Clan Operations Office at the time of Pete's murder, a likely alibi because there were dozens of people who would have seen him there, too many to bribe or fool, not that Mr. Vaughn Stump would. And he had been the one to return to find the body. Frank wants to know details, and his curiosity is answered when Gerard asks the circumstances of the discovery.
It is the first time Mr. Vaughn Stump actually looks like his best friend has been murdered, and Frank sees the grief so openly on his face that he has to look away. "He was in his studio. I knocked, and thought he was being difficult, not answering the door, that he'd insisted everyone leave him alone again or something. But after the third knock, I just - I just knew something was wrong. So I broke open the door and he was - "Mr. Vaughn Stump stops.
"And you tried to revive him?" Gerard asks.
Mr. Vaughn Stump nods.
"You tried all the ways?" Gerard and Mr. Vaughn Stump star at each other. "Even the Trading?"
"That ritual is illegal," Mr. Vaughn Stump says immediately, and Frank suddenly understands what Gerard is asking. The myth says that it is only human blood directly from the heart of a loved one that can bring back a vampire from certain death. Frank thinks that the myth formed more because the procedure would only be risked by someone who cared that much. It is wildly dangerous, only to be done in the most dire cases, because the vampire, while almost dead, is not in possession of its full mind and can continue to feed until the human source is dead. It is referred to as Trading, because the outcome is usually a revived vampire and a dead human. They'd made the procedure illegal in the community long before the Clan laws came along.
Gerard's mouth flattens into a tight frown and Frank can tell that Gerard is resisting saying something about how it hardly matters what is legal when it comes to desperate measures and shock.
There is a sudden ruckus in the hallway and the door bursts open only to be immediately wrenched closed again. Frank can see Mr. Trohman and Mr. Hurley just outside, shouting at someone, who, a moment later, Frank recognizes as Ryan Ross.
"I need to speak with Patrick. I know Pete would have wanted me here," Mr. Ross is shouting.
"Excuse me," Mr. Vaughn Stump says to Gerard and walks over to the door. "Ryan, it will have to wait."
"You don't get to decide what the right time is!" Mr. Ross says. "Who are you to decide how to handle this, how to handle any of this?"
"Gerard Way is handling the investigation into Pete's murder," Mr. Vaughn Stump says, and opens the door wide enough for Mr. Ross to see Gerard. "I'll you'll kindly wait downstairs, I need to finish proving to Gerard that I did not kill Pete," Mr. Vaughn Stump says with a distinct displeasure. "I hope that reassures you, Ryan, that no one is above suspicion."
Mr. Ross doesn't say anything, but allows Mr. Vaughn Stump to close the door.
"I'm sorry, where were we?" Mr. Vaughn Stump asks, re-taking his seat.
"Did you attempt the Trading?" Gerard asks again.
There's a pause as Mr. Vaughn Stump lifts his hand and rolls back his cuff to show the still-red cut, not even bandaged. Frank looks politely away.
"I started just with fresh blood for over ten minutes," Mr. Vaughn Stump said. "He wouldn't even swallow."
"I'm sorry," Gerard says, and sounds it, as Patrick pulls his cuff down.
"And a physician is investigating the cause?"
"I know what the cause was," Mr. Vaughn Stump says. "It was the yarrow flower stake in the middle of his chest."
Frank can't help but shiver. A horrible, irreverent way to die, considered shameful by all of the community. "So he couldn't even be raised from the dead to testify." Frank says without meaning to. Both Gerard's and Mr. Vaughn Stump's eyes fly to Frank who is about to say he is sorry, but Gerard smiles at him, like he's just gotten the answer right.
"We'd never do that to Pete," Patrick says, now looking from Frank to Gerard. "He worked against that practice. But, yeah, even if - we couldn't. Whoever did this knew exactly what to do."
"Do you have any idea what community we're looking at?"
Frank's thinking that it has to be a midnighter, very few daylighters know the lore that well. Except for the vigilante White Hands of course, and this isn't some random vampire killing. It was meant to send a message.
"I think it's inside," Patrick says, "though there are a number of daylighters that I wouldn't rule out. Still, the way he was killed. . . ."
"Yes, I agree," Gerard says. "It reads more like a midnighter killing by a midnighter killer. I'll verify these," Gerard says, about Patrick's alibis. "Would Frank and I be permitted to interview Pete's staff? I know he didn't keep a full house staff, but any tradespeople, too. . . "
"Of course," Mr. Vaughn Stump says. "I'll have some coffee sent up, and you can speak to the staff here, if that suits you."
"That will be perfect," Gerard says.
"And Frank, are you hungry? Would you like me to send up a bag - "
"No, thank you, sir, I'm fine," Frank says quickly without thinking. Even if he were hungry, the idea of Mr. Vaughn Stump sending up what could potentially be Pete's blood supply, disturbs Frank in a way he can't explain. He decides to just have coffee, if Gerard offers.
"So, what do you think?" Gerard asks as soon as Mr. Vaughn Stump has closed the room. His eyes are sparkling the way they always do on a new case, even if the lines around his mouth are tight.
"I don't think it was Patrick, but I almost never suspect the first person we hear the details from."
"At least you're aware of who you're giving authority to," Gerard says and Frank smiles. "And I don't think it was Patrick, either. He'd have nothing to gain."
"But did you see the way he moved around it? It's filled with grief."
"Do you think we'll be here long? Would you like me to go back to the house and get anything?"
Gerard beams at him. "No, I'd much prefer your company. I have a feeling we're going to speak to about thirty people tonight and about three of them will have something useful to tell us. Ah, yes, come in," Gerard says to a young tattooed kid with dark eyeliner carrying a tray of coffee. Frank stands up to take the tray, and begins pouring coffee.
"Pour one for yourself," Gerard says with a smirk. "You don't need to wait for me to offer."
Frank does, though. It says so in every valet instruction book he's read. Of course, none of the valet instruction books mentions working on a murder investigation with your master, either, so maybe Gerard is right. Maybe there are certain rules that don't apply when you're Gerard Way's valet.
They do speak to more than thirty people, including Mr. Trohman, Mr. Hurley, Ms. Simpson, and Mr. McCoy. Frank keeps a log, because when Gerard decides there are no details to be gained from an interview, he lets his mind wander, and Frank is good at keeping people in order. He's good at keeping lists. He lets his own mind wander, though, to Mikey. He wishes he'd had the chance to see him before they left. He's worried about what Mikey might do, if he's as upset as he must be. Frank can't really imagine, but if something had happened to Gerard -
Within the first month that Frank was working as Gerard's valet, Gerard was attacked six times - four while just walking here to there, once at a crime scene, and once by someone pretending to be a client. Nothing usually happened - Gerard got punched, got a punch in, the assailant ran - and then there was the zombie with the inexperienced zombie master who halfway through the attack asked Gerard if he'd do pro bono work and help the zombie get away from this master. Gerard had given him a nice explanation about how zombies should not be forced to commit crimes on behalf of their masters, especially if those crimes involved attacking Gerard.
There was also the time Schechter got all glowy and blocked a spell with his bare hands, which was also the first time that Frank realized Schechter was freaking amazing at something other than being a hardass and following code. Schechter hadn't wanted to talk about it later, but Frank got it out of Mikey that Schechter had fooled around with magic a few years back, and that he'd inadvertently discovered his ancestry and that he was a descendant of the wizard family of Alter-Prime, the sorcerers most likely to have been the ones who destabilized the West Coast.
One time, though, Gerard got really hurt, because someone laced the candy dish with poison. Frank had been worried senseless, and had to read the chapter in the Valet's Guide on being a temporary nursemaid, and had to make tea instead of coffee, tea without any of the spices or herbs Gerard couldn't have because of his allergies. And it sucked, but it would be worse if he'd had to flip to the other chapter, about burying a master. Frank wonders how many of Pete's staff are familiarizing themselves with that procedure and decorum now.
Mr. Vaughn Stump returns with a uniformed daylighter. Not just a uniform, Frank sees, but badges and epaulets that rank him an investigator on this kind of high profile cross-community case.
"Inspector Toro," Gerard says, standing up and offering his hand to the uniformed officer before he introduces himself. Mr. Vaughn Stump wears the expression Frank's used to seeing on people, surprise and disbelief, when Gerard pulls a stunt like this.
"You've met?" Mr. Vaughn Stump asks, but Inspector Toro's face has the same surprise, but a different, happier sort.
"Mr. Way," he says, returning Gerard's handshake. "Yes, we've met," Inspector Toro says to Mr. Vaughn Stump, but still looking at Gerard. "Just not in this capacity."
"As investigator and investigator," Gerard fills in. "We knew each other in school." Gerard gestures Frank over and introduces him. "Frank, this is Ray Toro, who apparently has risen in the ranks since we last talked. Ray, this is my valet and investigative assistant, Frank Iero."
Inspector Toro nods at Frank, who nods back.
"It appears that Mr. Wentz's death meets all the requirements for closure according to the midnighter assassination code," Inspector Toro says and holds up his hands as Mr. Vaughn Stump and Gerard both try to argue with him, "But the police force has reason to suspect there are some other things at play, and, from the presence of Mr. Way, I'm assuming we're not alone."
"No, you are not wrong," Mr. Vaughn Stump says.
"We're asking permission to investigate the case, pending your approval and that I meet all requirements for the case. I have my papers," he says, offering them to Mr. Vaughn Stump. "As well as my record of midnighter cases I have worked on."
Gerard and Mr. Vaughn Stump exchanged a look. "Come by the agency tomorrow," Gerard says, "After you've conducted your interviews. We can discuss some initial assessments."
Use your IRE
If you get in trouble with the daylighter police, remember to IRE: Identify yourself as a midnighter, Request midnighter-appropriate counsel, and Evaluate your location for potential risks to your health.
Remember, daylighter police are not always anticipating their encounters with midnighters, and quite frequently have to deal with midnighter fraud, so speak up.
Gerard is quiet for most the carriage ride home, checking the clock and the curtains even though they are still two solid hours from the first light of dawn.
"It's fine, sir," Frank says, after the third time, his hand on Gerard's knee. They both still, and Gerard lets the curtain fall back, covering the night.
"I'm sorry," Gerard says. "Seeing Pete like that was just - " Gerard trails off and while Frank understands, was just as spooked if not moreso. Faced with such gruesome mortality of someone of his kind, he is more interested in reassuring Gerard.
"Murder is far away from a little bit of sunlight poisoning," Frank says, and Gerard looks up and smiles at him.
"You'll make sure and get some sleep today?" Gerard asks.
"Yes, sir," Frank says, "But won't you be joining me?" Gerard's cheeks flush at Frank's words and Frank struggles to gain control of his mouth again. "I mean, sleeping. Won't you also be - sleeping?" he manages to choke out.
"I have some work I need to do," Gerard says quietly, the flush from Frank's embarrassing misstatement gone.
"Well, then I will - "
"No, you'll sleep," Gerard says firmly. "There will be plenty of time for me to trouble you with this gruesome case tomorrow evening."
"What do you think Mr. Ross was doing there?" Frank asks.
"Ryan used to always be at Decaydance Mansion," Gerard says, and then, "He and Pete were close. Even after everything, I'm sure he wanted to know what had happened to Pete."
The 'everything' Gerard was referring to was the rift that had grown between Pete and Ryan as their beliefs in what was best for the midnighter community had diverged and they'd ended up in more than a few public fights until Ryan had basically gone underground. He had never renounced Pete or his views, but it was clear Ryan was not going to be the political successor Pete had wanted him to be.
"Then why did he leave before you finished your interviews?"
"Oh, I'm sure he was still there, he just was making sure he wasn't seen," Gerard says. "And I think he just wanted to make sure that Patrick was doing everything in his power to make sure justice would be served."
Gerard doesn't say anything for the rest of the ride home, and he goes straight up to Mikey's room when they arrive. Frank hangs up Gerard's coat, arranges his desk with the notes he's taken, and makes his way to his rooms just as he's starting to feel the weight of tiredness and the prickly feeling of the sun rising.
The sleep Frank has in his coffin is the deepest sleep he ever experienced. It's something more than the kind of sleep he had when he was human. He was required to take a 6-week course on vampire biology after he was turned as part of his Clan classification, and so he knew it was less a sleep as a reset, where his vampire body rebuilt itself, so it wasn't so much rest as work his body did without his consciousness getting in the way. Frank remembers when there was the resurgence of the White Hands who claimed that vampires were simply demon possessions and that their bodies would eventually rot. And that had totally pissed off the demon community who took it as an extreme insult to their cleanliness and to the entire voluntary-possession career. Frank still sees the posters from when the community had teamed up with the toothpaste company: demon possession won't rot your teeth, but not brushing will!
Frank can stay up for four whole days, or that's the longest he's ever done. As long as he feeds regularly, it is just like staying up all night. He gets into a kind of stupid but functional state. In a house like the Way mansion, which is protected for habitation during the daylight, far above the normal midnighter-complaint houses and workplaces, Frank can work any time during the day, whether or not the sun is up. Doing anything during the day is just a little weirder, a little less focused, like there is something he is forgetting, right at the edge of his mind.
The thing is, Frank doesn't dream. He misses dreaming, he misses the weird scenarios that his brain thought up, connecting the weird threads of life. He met a shaman once offering services for vampire sleep-consciousness retrieval, but Frank thought it was too weird. If he goes somewhere else while he is sleeping, he doesn't want to know about it.
When he wakes, it's an hour before sunset. He could try to sleep until the sun is down, but he's itching with restlessness. He gets up and goes to the kitchen where he picks up a bag of blood - A Positive, from a vegetarian. Gerard actually had Frank taste-test several different kinds and types from several of the suppliers, and though Frank had insisted he didn't taste a difference, he had, in fact, preferred the kind Gerard ended up buying.
Finishing the bag, he goes to clean up and get dressed. One of the things Frank has to be careful about with baths is not to run the water too hot, because it would take him forever to return back to normal temperature. And if Inspector Toro is going to be coming by this evening, Frank ought to be wearing an appropriate suit and not a t-shirt.
He goes to Mikey's room, even though he knows he won't be there. It's a force of habit, and now, he's looking for the reassurance that Mikey is ok in the order of his rooms, as though Frank could make things ok by just straightening up.
But Mikey's rooms aren't empty. When Frank goes in, Gerard is sitting on the edge of Mikey's bed.
"I'm sorry, sir, I hadn't realized you were awake yet," Frank says, trying to work through his shock and find a way to apologize for not knocking even though he had no way to expect he'd find Gerard here. "I thought it was early, so - "
"You're worried about Mikey, too. I know. It's me he's angry with. I didn't want him mixed up with this thing with Wentz."
Frank startles. "You - knew this was going to happen?"
Gerard stares at Frank open-mouthed. "No!" he finally says, though it seems to require a great deal of effort. "I didn't want him dating Wentz."
"Mr. Wentz and Mikey are just - "
Gerard puts up his hands. "I know, Frank. I've known for a while, it's ok. I appreciate you keeping my brother's secret."
"I had no intention of - " Frank is worried that Gerard is still angry though there's no sign of his disapproval.
"No, I'm not angry," Gerard says. "I don't think he would have been able to help Pete, even if I hadn't sent him away," Gerard says, as though he's arguing with Mikey who's not there.
"And he could have just gotten himself hurt by whoever killed Pete."
"Exactly!" Gerard says emphatically. "I'd rather he be angry with me than. . . heartbroken," Gerard says, though he clearly struggles with the word. "I expect Inspector Toro in about an hour," Gerard says, "Will you make us some coffee and then go up to the archives and bring down the Clan summary file. I'm not sure how much Ray knows and I'd like to make sure he is fully informed."
"Yes, sir," Frank says.
"Frank," Gerard says just as Frank is lifting Mikey's tray. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine, sir," Frank answers without hesitation.
"I mean, about Pete," Gerard asks, and he's looking very seriously at Frank's face.
"I guess I'm still in shock about it," Frank says after a moment.
"Would you be able to do me a favor, before Inspector Toro's visit?"
Frank does not even bother to correct Gerard. "Of course," he says.
"Do you have any errands you might run downtown? Something at any of the Clan offices? I want to see how – how things are."
"Of course, sir," Frank says. "I have some paperwork I could complete."
"Thank you," Gerard says, though he looks immediately distracted and excuses himself, leaving Frank alone in Mikey's room.
The Clan office in this neighborhood is clean, and looks like a normal business, and doesn't remind him so much of the drug clinics as some of the others do, or, worse, of a doctor's office, which Frank had seen enough of when he was a daylighter. Frank brings his paperwork to the receptionist, who gives him a double-take when he hands in the certificate of employment that has Gerard's name on it, and looks suitably impressed. Frank doesn't have to wait long, he's early enough in the evening that there's no crowd. He reads a pamphlet about How to Tell Early Signs of Daylight Poisoning and another about Choosing the Right Pet For Your (New) Nocturnal Lifestyle when the receptionist calls him and gestures for him to take the first room on the right.
Frank goes on, wincing because he's expecting a beige chair with a thin, rustly paper covering, and a counter full of cotton balls and gleaming silver instruments. But in the room there are only two chairs and table that's been recently revarnished. He takes a seat, and a moment later, a woman in a white coat comes in.
"Mr. Iero," she says. "I'm Ms. Asher, you're here for your quarterly, right? I'm obligated to remind you that while you remain gainfully employed with a Clan certified employer, you do not actually need to come in for a quarterly. They have their own tests."
Frank nods. "It's ok, it's always quick, and I don't want to burden Mr. Way."
"Of course not," Ms. Asher says. "Anyway, I recommend class 2, level b vampires, especially who have been turned within the past five years get regular check-ups. What was it, pneumonia?"
Frank nods again. She considers his file again. "Had a cough recently?"
Frank breaks into a grin. "No," he says happily.
"And you drink enough? No flashes of Hunger Rage?"
"No," Frank says, uncomfortably. He only experienced Hunger Rage when he was first turned, and it remains one of the most disturbing things he's ever experienced. It was worse than everyone looking like food, which was how the paperwork had described it. Everyone looked like prey, and he'd wanted to destroy them, to hunt them and make them stop moving and breathing. It had passed quickly enough, but he knows it would return if he ever gets too underfed and too desperate.
"Good," Ms. Asher says. "Are you having any trouble sensing daylight?"
"No," Frank answers.
"I see your rooms are in the same house as a class 1 magician," Ms. Asher says. "Though if rumor has it, he's actually a class 5."
"He doesn't like to talk about it," Frank says.
"I'm sure," Ms. Asher says, and Frank smiles at her tact for never mentioning Schechter's name. "Have you ever knowingly been touched by a spell not meant or directed at you?"
"A few times, actually, but the magician in question was always aware of it," Frank says.
"You don't mind if I check you for a few of the standard magical ailments, though?"
"Of course not," Frank says, as Ms. Asher reads a series of keywords at him, waves her hand in some quick, vague motion Frank can't comprehend, and then stares at him with intent.
She breaks the stare with a smile. "Everything looks good. Before you go, would you go get that pitcher over there for me?" Frank stands up and gets the pitcher, hands it to Ms. Asher, who smiles. "Silver," she says, when he looks at her expectantly. "I know vampires are the least likely to be turned and not know it, but there's been a rash of surprise werewolf attacks so it's just a default thing we're checking now. If you follow me, we'll have Nate check your teeth and you'll be on your way."
Frank leaves with a stack of paperwork updated and the satisfaction of tasks being attended to. It's still early, so he decides to drop in to his apartment, and maybe catch Dewees, who, if the pattern holds, has probably overslept and is late for work. Since his master does the same thing, it's turned into a good situation for both of them.
Frank uses the spare key he had always kept by the fake plant in the stairwell and opens up his old apartment door, calling out, though there is no need, because Dewees is sprawled out on the floor of the hall, and Frank catches his foot as the door swings open.
"What – who - " Dewees says, his arms flailing blindly around.
"Open your eyes," Frank says kindly. Dewees does, and then he sits up.
"Frank!" he says.
"Still forgetting some of the simple spirit of independence?" Frank taunts.
"Hey, you try taking orders for every single thing all day and then remember that you're supposed to open your eyes without a command." Dewees shuffles up, patting over his body in the classic zombie gesture of making sure everything is still connected.
"You need to practice your exercises," Frank admonishes.
"Bah!" Dewees says. " I don't need those. So I forgot to open my eyes, I'm looking at your right now, aren't I? Damn, you look skinny, too, isn't Mr. Way feeding you?"
Frank finally closes the door behind him, now that Dewees is actually standing. "I'm as skinny as I always was," Frank says. "I just came to pick up some clothes. I'm assuming you haven't sold too many of my things off?"
"Frankie, I'm wounded," Dewees says, clutching his hand over his heart - or trying, he has his hand over the right side of his chest. Frank points his chin to the left a few times until Dewees corrects it, "I am gainfully employed! Why would I need to sell your clothes for money? Not that I'd get much, you're not exactly a fashion jetsetter."
Frank looks at the clock. "And aren't you supposed to be gainfully employed at your master's house. . . about a half hour ago?"
Dewees looks at the clock, and then out the window. "Nah, I'm ok for another hour at least," Dewees says and Frank shakes his head.
"Dewees," Frank calls out, because in the time Frank has packed up his clothes into an old dusty leather bag, Dewees has laid back down on the floor. "Wake the fuck up, man, I want to ask you something."
"Bossy, bossy," Dewees says, but he wakes back up anyway. Frank can never tell if it's because Dewees really wants to or because of the way Frank phrased it like a command. He thinks maybe there's not much difference; zombie sense of self is entirely connected to commands.
"Have you seen Mikey?" Frank asks, because it's not like Dewees doesn't know what he's asking.
"Since Wentz," Frank says.
"You haven't seen him since?" Dewees says, sounding concerned. "You don't think he's - "
"No," Frank says. "I mean, I don't know."
"Nothing against your kind or whatever," Dewees says as Frank punches him. "But the kid's too young."
"I know," Frank says. "And I'm worried he's acting out of - "
"Grief," Dewees says. "Yeah, he and Wentz were. . . intense. I mean, not that the rest of the midnighter community didn't have some sort of close and personal relationship with Wentz. He was the guy who got us jobs, who gave us rules, who gave us a language to communicate with the daylighter community."
Frank stares open-mouthed at Dewees. "Are you being possessed?" he says. "That was possibly the most poetic thing I've ever heard you say."
"What, a zombie can't do some reading of his master's library?"
Frank picks up a pamphlet from the floor, from a file when he was first turned - Don't Confuse These Rituals With Their Sinister Counterparts - and files it back in his bookcase.
"I'm going to work," Dewees says. "Thanks for waking me up and inspiring my inner poet and shit."
Dewees grabs a coat and slams the door on the way out, leaving Frank in the quiet of his old apartment, thinking about Mikey and Pete, about how much he should worry about Mikey, how much he should try to chase him down. Standing in the doorway of his old place, he sees a pamphlet dropped in front of his door and several of the others.
Feeling restricted by certain aspects of the Clan Code? Interested in learning how daylighters are involved in shaping the midnighter community to suit their needs? Come to a private gathering at the last house on Fever Street, at the top of the hill.
Fever Street? That's in Ross's territory, or on the edge of it. Frank had to wonder if Ross knew about it. Or is maybe even organizing it. The timing is alarming; Pete hasn't been dead a full day and already Ross is making a political move. Frank realizes this is this is exactly the kind of thing that Gerard sent him off to find out about. He decides to stop by the valet social club. At any given time, Frank could find the valets and other personal servant staff of all the households in the area at the club, a place where they could complain to and consult each other, the place where Frank had learned all the important things about being a valet that the Valet's Guide had failed to include.
He sees Ashlee with a stack of Clan code charts spread out of front of her on the table, a pencil holding her hair back in a crooked bun. "Hi, have a seat," Ashlee says when she sees Frank.
"Maybe I shouldn't - " Frank says, suddenly realizing that he's in a room full of suspects.
"You're not here on business, right? I didn't see Gerard and so I thought - "
"No, no, not yet," Frank says. "Though I'm sure he'll expect you to clear your schedule when he's ready to interview you."
"Of course," Ashlee says, and then, looking at the piece of paper in Frank's hand, "So you've seen it?"
Frank nods. "I was hoping someone could tell me what it means."
"It means Ross is well aware of the power vacuum," Bill says, pulling up a chair and flipping it around, so he sits straddling it, his elbows on the table. Bill, a Will-o-the-Wisp, was one of the first cases Frank worked on with Gerard, when Bill was falsely accused of luring people into alleys to steal their valuables. "A year ago, this would have been exactly what Pete wanted, what he had groomed Ryan for. But after what happened between them…." Bill stops.
"We're working on a response, but so close to losing Pete, it's not – it's not easy to know what to say. I'm writing the first half. Thankfully Travis is working on the other half."
At that moment, Travis, who's being carried across the bar by Gabe, shouts loudly for William, who, a moment later, is heard shouting through laughter like he's being tickled, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, you are the prettiest!"
Frank looks around the room and has a hard time, here in the yellow bar light, the absence of mirrors, the constant murmur of the crowd, imagining that any of these people could have murdered Pete. He knows enough from working with Gerard that it really doesn't take much to make a person commit murder, just the right coalescence of circumstances, the right imperative and the favorable outcome and anyone could do it, even if it was mostly accidental. But to kill Pete, who had meant something to each of them personally, who had meant so much to the community -
Not Ashlee, not Travis, even if the motivation had been all of the power they'd inherit - Not William, even if he had been jealous over Mikey - not Joe or Andy for some unperceived work grudge - Frank can't find a single person in the room whose motives he can convincingly argue.
He's never wished that Gerard was with him more than when Frank looks up at the door opening and sees Ryan Ross standing there, dark glasses on, hat low over his head, a scarf loosely around his neck, draped incongruously over his suit. Ryan Ross, who, incidentally, is the first vampire Pete himself turned after the passing of the Clan Code, was widely assumed to have been chosen by Wentz to be his successor, though he lacked the charming personality that made Wentz so popular.
"It's not a good time, Ryan," Ashlee says, standing up as the place goes quiet.
"Go ahead, Ryan, some of us are interested in what you have to say," a voice from the back shouts and a few others make encouraging sounds.
"I'm just here to invite everyone to an event I'm hosting. I see some of you have already received the notice?" he says, his eyes scanning the room for his pamphlets.
"You should at least give us time to grieve," William says.
"Who says I'm not?" Ryan says, flashing a smile to a few people in the corner of the room. "But if you're not interested in what I have to say, in where I think our community is going, then I'll go. I look forward to seeing you at Pete's funeral."
"You're not really planning to work politics at his funeral?" Someone shouts from behind the bar. Frank sees that it's Andy. "Patrick will kill you."
"It's not polite to make death threats on behalf of other people," Ross says. "And politics don't wait. Someone killed Pete. They're trying to destabilize us. I won't let that happen."
Before anyone can respond, Ryan turns and walks out the door.
The sound slowly comes back into the room, a mix of exclamations about how Ryan should have been invited to stay and how he shouldn't have come in the first place.
"I should go," Frank says to Ashlee. "I need to talk to Gerard."
Ashlee gives him a smile he can't read. "Travis wanted me to offer you a job, you know, at Decaydance. We could use a few more people to help us hold things together. But you're kind of attached to Gerard, aren't you?"
"Yeah," Frank says, still reeling from Ross' interruption and unable to quite process what Ashlee is saying. "Tell Travie thanks for the offer, though, seriously, I'll consider it if anything. . . happens."
Ashlee just laughs and Frank makes his way back home, wondering – if anything happened - if there is anything he could really do and be happy with after working for Gerard Way.
Inspector Toro is still in Gerard's office when Frank returns, and they're deep in conversation, so Frank brings Gerard's coffee and the plate and tomato and cheese sandwiches and he hears snatches of the case, which Gerard insists on continuing to talk about even though Inspector Toro pauses every time Frank comes in. Frank knows it isn't rudeness, it's just the way most people behave around valets. And most valets can't offer information about current murder investigations, the way Frank can, when he walks in and Inspector Toro is voicing his suspicion over Mr. Saporta.
"He was dodgy about his paperwork," Inspector Toro was saying. "And he insisted he was turned according to the Clan code but he got the letters mixed up and if he really is a Level 4 Sub-level A, that makes him a - "
"Mermaid," Frank says and Gerard laughs out loud. "I can assure you he's not." He looks to Gerard for permission to continue and then says, "He was just lying about his paperwork. He was voluntarily turned but neglected to attend the transition counseling."
"But surely they must be after him every time he goes to one of the banks," Inspector Toro says. "Or does he not use them?"
"Oh, he uses them, he just tells them he forgot his glasses everytime and so he can't read the paperwork he'd need to complete the transition counseling."
"And that works?" Inspector Toro says, laughing.
"Mr. Saporta is quite charming," Frank says. "I suspect the presence of the law from the daylighter community intimidated him. If the rumors are true, he got into a fair bit of trouble when he was a daylighter."
Inspector Toro seems to relax into Frank's presence, so Frank walks around the desk and picks up some of the papers that Gerard has tossed or knocked over, refiling some of the Clan records, and trimming the wicks and relighting candles.
"So that leaves only one more person on my list of suspicions," Inspector Toro says, "And that's Bob Bryar."
"What? What makes you think Bob Bryar was involved?" Gerard says and almost overturns the tray of sandwiches, which Frank manages to save. "Bob Bryar, from the Blind Order? But there was no contract."
"And no one of the Blind Order operates outside of the justice system?" Inspector Toro asks, sounding highly suspicious. "He was meeting with Patrick earlier that day. Just hours before Pete was killed."
Frank sees it on Gerard's face the same moment he thinks of it. Just hours after Gerard had met with Patrick.
"No one operates without a contract, it's unheard of," Gerard says. "The only way a self-ruled system of justice works is if there is some agreed-upon method of recourse and settling disputes that is above reproach."
"So if I were Frank, I could just put out a contract on you and have you murdered if we had a dispute?"
Frank was horrified and was about to protest when Gerard stood and walked around the desk, hopping up to sit on it and leaning in toward Inspector Toro. "There are several things that all of the very strange and disparate groups of the midnighters have in common, and one of them is a strong sense of justice. The Blind Order is like a court system, except without what the midnighters consider the messy necessity of trials. If two midnighter peers have entered into an equal relationship and one of them breaks the rules of that relationship, the wronged party can request a contract with the Order and the Order will mete out justice."
"That's - " Inspector Toro says and then stops. "That makes sense but it sounds overly simple."
"Well, it isn't, and that's the only reason it works," Gerard says. "The important variables are the words 'peer,' 'equal relationship,' and 'wronged party.' There are almost no situations in which Pete Wentz could be considered a peer of anyone in the midnighter community and so the Order would never consider a contract on him. It's the only way to maintain a balance of power with someone like Pete, otherwise everyone who didn't like him or wanted his power or influence or to undo his work could have put a contract out on him, and he would have been dead before the ink on the Clan law was even done drying."
"You could be considered a peer," Inspector Toro says and Frank felt suddenly cold. "Even if you're not a midnighter, you're close enough." Frank tried to keep his eyes on the files he was putting away, but he couldn't help but look up to see that Gerard and Inspector Toro were staring at each other. "He was rumored to have had a relationship with your brother."
Gerard's expression is perfectly blank when he says, "I did not put out a contract on Pete Wentz. You think Patrick would allow me on the case if he had any suspicion whatsoever?" he stares at Inspector Toro a little longer and then says, "And I'd never be stupid enough to put out a contract with an anonymity clause. If I were going to kill Pete Wentz, I'd do it myself," Gerard says, with such conviction that Frank believes him completely. "And if he'd turned Mikey, I would have." All of Gerard's attention is focused on Inspector Toro, who Frank notices is looking both confused and slightly unsettled.
Frank takes the moment to collect their empty coffee cups and sneak out of the room. Just as the door is closing behind him, he hears Gerard say, "So trust me when I say you're wasting your time trying to track down Bob. If someone from the Blind Order doesn't want to be found, they won't be. And there's no way he's involved."
Frank doesn't want to linger, but he almost knows what Inspector Toro's next question is before he asks it, because it's the question that's at the top of Frank's mind, too.
If Bob isn't involved in Pete's murder, than what was he doing meeting with Patrick the same day? And why hadn't Gerard told Frank yet what it was he met with Patrick about?
Frank assures himself that Patrick could have business with the Blind Order that Frank could never understand, and the Blind Order probably does other things that never make it out into conversation. It doesn't seem like their only role could be the famous public midnighter killings.
No one is supposed to know who is in the Blind Order, but Bob often acts as their public face, when they need one. Frank has never had occasion to contact the Blind Order for a dispute resolution anyway, and, in fact, he hopes he never has to. Their delivery of justice was swift and unquestioned, and quite scary.
Frank decides to tidy up Gerard's room until he hears Inspector Toro leave. He's sure Gerard will summon him if he wants to work on the case, but he really just wants to clear his head from investigating and case solving. He isn't as good as Gerard is, gets distracted by small things, like Mikey. Like the idea of Pete turning Mikey, and how terrifying Gerard's wrath would have been in that case.
When he comes back down, though, Gerard is nowhere to be found, which means he's already in the greenhouse. Frank had wanted to talk to Gerard about the Ross pamphlet, and about Ross's stop in the private club, and it feels strangely off that Gerard had sent Frank out to check on the tone of things in the midnighter community but didn't even want to hear what Frank had discovered. Feeling a dour mood creep over him, Frank leaves Ross's pamphlet on Gerard's desk and goes to starch some collars.
If you need to contact the Blind Order
Please remember that contract requests placed with the Blind Order are only for serious issues and should not be approached under any uncertainty. If you are interested in an arrangement that involves recompense or reconciliation with the accused party in your request for a contract, please specify that and we will assign the appropriate individual.
Please provide, in 300 words or less, a summary of the crime(s) committed against you. If you are not certain whether the accused individual would be considered a peer, please consult the Peer Standards chart, which can be found in any Clan office.
When your submission is complete, deposit it in any black courier box marked with the blind eye. Boxes are emptied daily.
Remember, anonymous submissions are never really anonymous. We'll keep your identity secret, but we'll always know who you are.
The next evening, after a day fitful sleep, Frank finds Gerard sitting in bed, surrounded by a tray of half-finished breakfast food and several sheaves of paper, stacks of folders, and books held open to the appropriate pages with various utensils, and in one case, a full coffee cup.
"Good evening sir," Frank says, stepping all the way into Gerard's bedroom, picking up the evening's clothes and more socks than it seems to make sense for Gerard to have worn in one day. Frank examined a pair for a moment, wondering if perhaps he had forgotten to pick them up the previous day. "Did you sleep well?"
"Hmmmm," Gerard says, not quite paying attention. "Did you know that Inspector Toro was assigned as an investigator to several incidents that occurred in the daylighter community after the Wentz attacks?"
"I did not know that. Sir," Frank answers belatedly. "I must admit I did not follow events in the community during that time as closely as I could have. It was before my arrival in the midnighter community, and, unfortunately, a great deal of that time was taken up by being gravely ill."
Gerard looks up, momentarily shocked. "I'm sorry," Gerard says, regaining composure. "I forget sometimes that you were once a daylighter. I find it bad manners to ask about circumstances of one's turning," Gerard says. "It's sort of like someone asking me what my life was like before Mikey was born."
"Well," Frank says, "you can always ask me about it."
"Thank you, Frank," Gerard says, his voice so warm and intimate that Frank has to turn away and pretend to pick up a piece of laundry.
"Would you like me to draw you a bath?" Frank says, after a suitable time has passed, and Gerard has returned his attention to the mess of papers and books surrounding him.
"Yes," Gerard says absently, and then he looks up at the clock. "Yes, a quick one at that," Gerard says. "We're going to speak to one of Pete's associates in an hour. Could you also find me something to wear that's not a suit?"
"One of Pete's associates?" Frank says, once he returns from starting the bath. "Are you planning on interrogating suspects today?"
"Not yet," Gerard says inexplicably.
"And you saw the pamphlet from Ross?" Frank asks. "Is he not the associate we are visiting this evening?"
"No, I don't need to speak to Ross," Gerard shakes his head and doesn't say another word, only stands up, nearly overturning his coffee cup as several books close themselves and a whole file of paper slides to the floor. Frank knows better than to bring the pamphlet up again.
"I'll take care of it, sir," Frank says. "Please tell me if the water temperature is to your liking and I'll be right in."
Frank collects all of Gerard's books and papers, noticing that they all relate to Pete's business dealings rather than the list of suspects Frank would have expected Gerard would have compiled by now.
Frank knocks, and Gerard tells him to come in. Gerard's cheeks are pink from the hot water, the hair at the base of his neck wet, his toes just barely peeking out at the waterline.
"Is there anything I can get for you, sir?" Frank asks, still stinging from Gerard's abrupt dismissal when Frank had brought up Ross.
"You can keep me company," Gerard says, his eyes closed, as he sinks his shoulders deeper into the water. "I suspect I need fortification for the evening ahead of me, and nothing is more fortifying than a good conversation with you."
"It would be my pleasure," Frank says, leaning against the sink, feeling all of the hurt of the previous moment evaporating. This is one of Frank's favorite things, to have Gerard's undivided, relaxed attention. He does not let the thought that Gerard finds these conversations just as fulfilling get past his valet sensibilities. But there is no greater pleasure in serving in the Way Mansion than actually getting to see Gerard Way relax, to listen to him ask focused questions that do not wander into the hundreds of places Gerard's mind so often goes. In these conversations, Gerard slows down long enough to be in the moment, to turn his attention, so genuine and kind, to Frank. Whether he's asking questions or telling a story, it's something Frank wants to know or something he very much wants Gerard to know. "Is there a particular subject of conversation you have in mind?"
"Not really," Gerard says, and then adds, "Ask me a question," the water sloshing as he adjusts himself to rest his chin on the edge of the tub, to look up at Frank. "Something you've always wanted to know. About me, or this place," Gerard says. He briefly dunks his face into the tub water. Frank is there with a hand towel before Gerard comes back up.
Frank considers Gerard's request, and, eventually decides to ask the first question that comes to mind. He's thinking of the Toro papers. "Why didn't you become a detective in the daylighter community, or the police force?"
Gerard smiles at Frank to show he's heard the question and then ducks back down low into the water, considering. "I didn't ever think I'd be a detective," Gerard says. "I didn't think I'd ever have to do anything, really," he adds. "It's a choice that comes from having an inheritance, from owning a place like this. It's why I have the luxury of not charging people who couldn't pay me in the first place."
"Was there something you wanted to do then?" Frank asks. "Even though you didn't have to do anything?"
"I couldn't decide," Gerard says. "I was asking myself that same question more than 10 years ago, while I was looking into small mysteries. I didn't know what I was good at, what I could do."
It sounds ridiculous to Frank, who imagines Gerard being born knowing what he wanted to do, an infant solving crimes and putting clues together.
"I ended up solving cases for friends, and then their friends, and a few daylighters I worked for suggested I apply for the academy, but when I started to find out what the investigative divide was between the two communities, how the two systems didn't work together - I was interested in operating in the in-between space, or helping daylighters understand midnighters and resolve their differences like they would have if they'd been in the same community. And then Wentz came along, reminding us that we were in the same community, showing us how we needed each other."
"I thought - " Frank says, looking at the way Gerard is sort of smiling wistfully. "Forgive me for saying this, sir, but I thought you and Wentz didn't get along."
Gerard laughs and splashes water all around. "Oh, we loathed each other," Gerard says. "But he was right about a lot of things."
"Sir, do you think Ross is – " Frank stops, wishing he could stop worrying.
"I think the less we hear about Ross, the better," Gerard says firmly.
"Sir, when you met with Mr. Vaughn Stump yesterday, did you - "
"Did I what?" Gerard asks evenly, though Frank thinks he knows the question Frank was about to ask.
Frank abruptly changes his approach. "Did you need anything else, sir? I should go get your office prepared."
"Just a towel, Frank," Gerard says softly. Frank hands Gerard a towel, politely looking away as Gerard stands, but Gerard's fingers touch Frank's, deliberately, he thinks, as he takes the towel. Frank scans Gerard's face, but Gerard just smiles back, giving away nothing and wrapping the towel around him. Frank excuses himself and closes the bathroom door. Frank hears the water dripping off Gerard's body and into the tub the entire time he walks down the hall.
The associate they are going to meet is a daylighter attorney who handles Pete's business affairs with all of the daylighter clientele who won't work with midnighters.
"Announcing Mr. Way," Frank says, holding the door. Gerard is inexplicably delayed outside the carriage. "In, uh, just a moment," Frank stalls.
The very handsome, slick looking young man in a 3-piece suit stands up from behind his desk and yawns. "You're welcome to come in," he says with a wolfish grin. "God knows I wouldn't kick you out of bed," he says. Frank ducks his eyes, but when he looks back up, the man's grinning again, slyly and warmly at the same time.
"Sir!" A young man hurries into the room, carrying a tray of coffee. "Please refrain from hitting on other people's valets." The man in the suit looks suddenly sheepish.
"I'm sorry," he says to Frank, though he's still smiling warmly. "New to this life and all. Never had servant staff. Thankfully I have Spencer here to keep me in line. Mr. Smith? Am I supposed to call you by your last name?" This last was directed at Spencer.
"Whatever you'd like, sir," Spencer says, though with a wry smile.
"Mr. Smith," he says, delighting in the formality. "Am I allowed to hit on you, Mr. Smith?"
Spencer's cheeks color slightly but he remains remarkably cool. "Technically not, sir."
"Technically!" the man says delightedly. He takes a cup of offered and then gestures to Frank to take one. Frank hesitates. Spencer coughs. "Oh, I've messed up again, haven't I?" he says, looking between Spencer and Frank. "We'll wait for Mr. Way. You're - "
"Frank Iero, sir," Frank says.
"Well, Mr. Iero, this is Mr. Smith, and I'm Mr. Urie."
"Sirs," Frank says, bowing slightly.
Mr. Urie laughs and then stops because Spencer scowls at him. Gerard comes in at that moment. "Sir," Frank says, holding the door with his foot. "Is everything all right?"
"Fine," Gerard says, giving no explanation for his delay. Gerard looks up, sees Brendon, and hugs him, quickly but firmly. Frank watches, shocked. Frank had no idea Gerard even knew Mr. Urie. "Hi, Brendon. You've met Frank?"
"Yes," Brendon says cheerily. "And this is Spencer."
"A pleasure to finally meet you, Mr. Way."
Gerard beams at Spencer and looks delightedly around the office. "You're doing well, I see?" Gerard asks. Frank knows it's true. Mr. Urie's office is full of large law texts, perfectly clean, hung with fancy curtains and decorated with rich oak furniture. It looks like the office of someone twice his age.
"Such is the blessing and the curse of working for Pete Wentz," Mr. Urie says. "You make ridiculous amounts of money in the daylighter sector but you haven't a second to spend it. Thank you, by the way, for meeting with me after hours. My clients obviously know that I'd have to cooperate with the midnighter investigation, but they'd rather not think I actually have to talk to Gerard Way."
Gerard shrugs and smiles. "Oh, the denial afforded to daylighters. So let's talk about your alibi," Gerard says, and Brendon straightens his suit jacket, his tie, and whispers to Spencer. Spencer then removes a folder from a drawer behind Brendon's desk.
"Statements and evidence," Brendon says and Gerard accepts them and looks impressed. "All daylighters, of course. And there's Spencer."
Frank wants to think that Gerard won't take this for an answer, that he'll want to do the investigating himself, but Gerard beams at Mr. Urie again, and Spencer Smith, they start talking about the arrangements for Pete's funeral tomorrow.
Frank is so thrown by the entire interaction that he just watches in silence.
Mr. Urie makes a point to wink at Frank as they're leaving, saying he looks forward to seeing him tomorrow, despite the somber event. Mr. Smith elbows Mr. Urie sharply in the ribs.
"You know him, sir?" Frank asks Gerard as they're getting into the carriage.
Gerard nods. "Helped him when he was in some trouble last year. Introduced him to Pete."
"Ah," Frank says, though he doesn't understand. "So the meeting wasn't – he wasn't ever a suspect."
"No," Gerard says.
Frank waits a moment, hoping Gerard will elaborate, but when he doesn't, Frank says, "I don't mean to appear at all insubordinate, sir, but with Pete's funeral tomorrow – well, it doesn't appear you've made any progress in the investigation beyond the individuals we questioned the day of the murder."
Gerard stares out the window, not looking back at Frank. "This is a very complicated case," Gerard says. "There are pieces of it I'm working on, I just can't – show you," Gerard finishes weakly.
"Of course, sir," Frank says, and even though the question's burning in his mouth, he doesn't ask why Gerard can't tell him more.
How to Recognize Unnatural Demon Attachment
Have you or someone you know woken up with a stranger next to you in your chosen sleeping space? Did you have tattoos you didn't remember getting? Was the stranger unusually easy going about the whole thing?
You may have just had a little too much of your chosen inebriating substance, but you might have also had a demon bound to you, a ritual whose aftermath feels quite a lot like a hangover. If you are unusually confused, you might be suffering from Demon's Thrall.
Tips: Try and get rid of the individual. If they won't leave, they might be a demon. Ask the individual's name. If they won't give it, or it sounds fake, they might be a demon. If you're unsure whether this was just an ill-advised rendezvous or actually is demon-related, go to your closest Clan office as soon as possible, and bring the individual with you. Even if you are not Clan-certified or have any previous lapses in your paperwork, a clinician will still be able to see you regarding possible demon-binding at no charge.
These situations or "deals" occur almost entirely without the permission of the person being bound. There are very few demons who find permission enticing.
Pete's funeral is not like any funeral Frank ever went to in the daylighter world. First of all, having a funeral for a midnighter was kind of an in-joke, because, especially when it was a vampire, they'd already died. Death wasn't the same thing in the midnighter community, with so many undead. You couldn't really have a viewing for a vampire, because the wake would be awkward, like you were looking at them sleeping. Which was what daylighters said about the dead, but their dead didn't normally sleep in coffins. Well, not all of them. Lots of zombies had multiple funerals. Sometimes funerals were just another life event that you got up and moved on from.
Pete, though, Pete's death requires some sort of acknowledgement, some sort of celebration, and there really isn't any other word for the kind of celebration you have when someone dies, vampire or not. There is no viewing, no coffin, no pyre, no body. The gates of Decaydance Mansion are opened up as soon as the sun goes down, the doors of the lobby and the grand staircase open to accommodate the crowd, and there are things to drink. It is a party, where everyone is welcome.
Patrick stands at the very top of the stairs, in a three piece suit and a fedora, and he doesn't need to shout to get the attention of the crowd. He just stands there, waiting, until everyone notices him, until everyone is quiet.
"Thank you all for coming," Patrick says, "Pete's usually the one who does the talking," he says, and Frank can tell it's true, that Patrick's uncomfortable here, in front of everyone, everyone waiting for what he says next. "There's no daylighter service, this is it," Patrick says. "Pete would have wanted it that way." His voice catches, but he recovers. "So I'm here to ask all of you to continue Pete's work. There's no one else who will ever be like Pete, but all of us, if we try hard enough, we can do what he'd still be doing, if he was here." Patrick clears his throat, "We'll all miss him," he says, and as far as speeches go, Frank doesn't think it was all that bad. He is glad it was Patrick, glad they didn't have to endure sitting there, listening to a long speech or a sermon. This was better. This was more like who they were.
Frank finds Gerard, who is leaning in a doorway, watching everyone. This is what Gerard does in crowds. It's like he's cataloging reactions, responses, faces. Like he's taking it all in. Frank watches Gerard for a while before he comes back over and joins him.
"I haven't seen Mikey, have you?" Gerard says, trying not to sound concerned but failing entirely.
Frank hasn't, and he thought, in the crowd, that he just hasn't seen him yet, but it occurs to him that he's seen everyone else, everyone, people he hasn't seen in ages. But no Mikey.
"Maybe he didn't want to deal with the crowd. You know how he is," Frank says.
Frank reaches out and puts his hand on Gerard's arm, and Gerard covers Frank's hand with his own. For the moment, Frank doesn't feel awkward, doesn't feel like he should pull away. They're in the middle of the crowd of their community, their world, at the funeral of a man who made Frank's post-death-life possible, and he deserves a moment with Gerard.
But just a moment, though. He is Gerard's valet, and they've been here long enough. "I can stay and track down Mikey," Frank says, because Gerard looks like he should leave, like the crowd of people has gone from that fine balance of interesting to overwhelming. And Frank's tired, too, and if he's tired – the ups and downs of the past couple of days -
"No, I'll send word when we get home. But for now, I'm going to take my leave. You're welcome to stay, I can send a carriage."
Frank looks at the foyer, the people crying in small groups, people dancing, someone singing a tune he recognizes but can't place, everyone standing around and looking to one another for something, as though they each held some understanding someone else was missing.
"No, sir, I'll come with you," Frank says.
"Best funeral I've been to," Gabe says, shaking Frank's hand as they walk down the path. "Mr. Way. Frank," he says, nodding.
Just as they're making their way to the carriage, Frank sees Ryan Ross walking up the driveway. Everyone is taking steps back to give Mr. Ross space, as though he needed more than everyone else.
Ross is just about to pass by them when Mr. Urie appears behind Gerard, reaching out for Frank's hand.
"Frank, so nice to see you again," Mr. Urie says, flashing him a smile. "Gerard," he says, and then Mr. Urie seems to notice that everyone is looking at something else. He turns abruptly and Mr. Ross stops in his tracks, right in front of them.
"Hello, Brendon," Mr. Ross says.
Brendon's face is blank. "Hello, Ryan," he says.
"If I'd have known you were going to be here, I would have brought along Jon," and as though Mr. Ross had never stopped, he picked back up his pace.
"What was that about?" Frank asks, but Gerard and Brendon are looking intently at each other.
"It was nothing," Mr. Urie says. "Excuse me, I've got to get going."
Gerard disappears to the greenhouse the moment they return, Frank is barely able to get Gerard out of his coat before he's gone behind the door Frank can't follow him through. Frank hangs up his own coat, sweeps the foyer of the dust they brought in, and then mid-sweep, walks off with the broom in his hand to Schechter's office. The door's open before Frank can even knock, Schechter leaning out of the doorway, his eyes on Frank's broom.
"I am not scared of cleaning implements," Schechter says. "Unless it's meant to be some sort of witch-slur about broom riding, in which case I'll give you a book about the difference between sorcerers and witches and then beat you over the head with it."
"Something's wrong with the way Gerard's investigating Pete's death," Frank says, his concern bursting out of him. Frank suspects that no one but he would notice, but Gerard has entered the state in his investigation where normally he'd have the solution and just be waiting for one last piece of evidence, or setting a trap for the suspect, or waiting for the suspect to come to him. But after the initial burst of interviewing, the only person Gerard was seeing regularly was Mr. Vaughn Stump, who he'd met with four times in two days, never bringing Frank along.
Which shouldn't bother Frank, not at all. His job is to be there when Gerard needs him, and just because Gerard had needed him a lot recently, just because he'd been around for almost every hour Gerard was awake, and sometimes cleaning up while Gerard was asleep, just because Gerard had been taking him on cases - it is Gerard's right to require Frank's services as little or as much as he needs to. Except that something is off about Gerard.
"So you're a detective now, I had no idea your training had progressed so far," Schechter says. Frank scowls at him. "Ok, fine, come in, sit down, tell me your troubles, child. Leave the broom outside, it's freaking me out to see you with it, I feel like we're about to get into a sword fight."
Frank sits, his eyes traveling over Schechter's rooms, which change every time Frank's in them. And not just the arrangement of the furniture, but the placement of the walls. Frank has never asked about it and Schechter has never volunteered any information.
"What's going on?" Schechter asks, because Frank is not really sure what to say, now that he's actually said aloud what he's been thinking all the time.
"He's not – something's wrong," Frank says uselessly.
"And have you talked to Gerard about this? Because you know he's an unconventional investigator."
"He doesn't seem to be interviewing suspects or following any leads. Or if he is, he isn't telling me about them, I haven't seen a single piece of the case file or gone with him anywhere. He's acting like – like he can't trust me," Frank says, and Schechter peers at him for an uncomfortably long time.
"And you've given him no – "
"I haven't done anything," Frank says, "I can't think of anything. He went on that meeting with Mr. Vaughn Stump and then he hasn't been himself since."
Schechter says, "You think something happened with Mr. Vaughn Stump? You think he told him to back off the case or something?"
"I don't know," Frank says, frustrated. "He won't talk about what happened at the meeting."
"Do you think Patrick killed Pete? And Gerard is covering for him?"
"No," Frank says, though not as firmly as he'd like to sound. "I think Gerard is covering for someone, though. Maybe that's how Bob's involved."
"Bob?" Schechter says. "Bob Bryar? You be careful with his name."
Frank doesn't really know what that means, but he's finding that explaining the tangled suspicions in his head don't really make any sense when he tries to say them aloud. "And do you know how Mr. Urie and Mr. Ross know each other?"
Schechter seems taken aback. "I didn't know that they did," he says.
Frank stands up and sighs. "I should finish sweeping."
"Yeah," Schechter says, though he doesn't sound sure. "Where is Gerard anyway?"
"In the greenhouse," Frank says despondently.
"I'll go talk to him," Schechter says, and when Frank's eyes go wide, Schechter holds up his hands. "I won't tell him you and I spoke. I just want to see for myself."
Frank gets lost reading A History of Midnighter Architecture by Daylighter Architects. He realizes, after nearly an hour, that Gerard hasn't called for him, and so he goes down to check if Gerard is in his office. He sees the candles lit and hears voices, and his heart soars in the hope that Mikey is back. But there's a deeper voice answering Gerard's, a voice that Frank feels like he ought to recognize but doesn't. He decides to just go and knock rather than anticipating what Gerard might want, or guessing wrong depending on the guest (he still remembers offering water to the fire demon that once.) But just as Frank's about to go down the stairs and down the hall to the side entrance to Gerard's office, the front door opens and a tall, broad figure steps out. Frank ducks into the sitting room without thinking, and he's glad his instincts told him to before he had a chance to think because as soon as he's hidden he realizes who it is. It's a member of the Blind Order. And not just any member. It's Bob Bryar, the only member anyone even knows.
Frank peeks through the open door, as Gerard walks Bob to the door. They are standing like they know each other, close and at ease.
"Thanks for coming, Bob," Gerard says, and he shakes Bob's hand. "I know you try not to be seen."
"It doesn't matter who I'm seen with," Bob says dryly.
"Well, that is true, isn't it?" Gerard says. "You let me know if you hear anything from him again, ok? I think we both know what Patrick has in mind."
Bob nods curtly and then is gone out through the door. Frank closes his eyes against the last rays of sun, and counts a full thirty seconds before stepping out of the mud room and going to Gerard's office.
"Everything ok, sir? I thought I heard the door," Frank says, doing his best to keep his face impassive.
"Frank! I thought you were upstairs," Gerard says nervously.
"I came down a short while ago, sir. I should have announced my return."
"Oh, no, it's fine. I was just checking for mail," Gerard says easily. "I'm waiting for a delivery from the hothouse where they had the yellow tomato outbreak and I thought I might have heard the carriage."
"Of course," Frank says, and then hesitates. He knows he can't ask about Bob, and even if he could find the words, he shouldn't, as his valet, question Gerard or call him on a lie. Gerard obviously has reasons, knows what he's doing. And there is no way Frank could ask the question without sounding like he suspects Gerard of something. Which he doesn't, of course not. But there is no way to ask the question without asking why Gerard was involved with Bob, which is surely, surely beyond Frank's purview. Scenarios are flying into Frank's head, where someone had put a hit on Gerard and Gerard was working things through with the Blind Order, or Gerard was trying to resolve a dispute with someone.
He wonders why Gerard wouldn't tell him about it, why Gerard wouldn't try to get Frank to settle the dispute first. Not that Frank could really imagine going to another valet's territory and asking to speak with the master, not that Frank's particularly tough or anything, either. But he'd do it if Gerard asked, he'd do an honor duel or a month-long litigation. That made perfect sense, as a valet-master relationship, as a thing Frank would do for Gerard. It was in the Valet's Guide, under Things You May Never Be Asked to Do but Ought to be Prepared for Anyway.
Frank's head is spinning, that's the real reason he doesn't say anything. "Was there anything you needed, sir?" Frank says finally, settling on the one thing he knows he can do well.
"No," Gerard says absently, rifling through some papers on his desk.
Frank nods, though Gerard isn't looking, and goes to the door. "I'll set out your clothes and then I'll retire to my coffin," Frank says. "If you need me, please feel free to send someone to wake me, sir."
"Frank," Gerard says, like the name just burst from his mouth. Frank turns, closes the door he had just been about to walk through.
"Yes, sir?" Frank stands at attention, thinking of the rules from the Valet's Guide, not to betray intention or expectation, to look as though you are ready to receive any instruction or source of information.
"The Wentz case," Gerard says and then stops and redirects his thoughts. "I know I've been...vague," Gerard says. Frank knows then that Schechter must have said something after all. "It's the case, it's just - " he stops, frustrated. Frank wonders what it is he's trying to say that he has to compose himself with such effort. "It is a very complex case, possibly my most complex ever. It requires that I spend a great deal of time contemplating it alone," Gerard finally says with a sigh.
Frank nods, and says, "Of course, sir." Gerard relaxes visibly.
"I'll see you this evening, then," Gerard says and Frank nods and takes his leave.
It's only when he's settling in to his coffin that he realizes that perhaps Gerard was composing himself with such great effort not because of what he was having trouble saying but because of what he couldn't say. Frank felt a whole lot less reassured.
Addendum to the Clandestine Code of Midnighter Rights, Fourth Printing
The Trading has not been removed from any of the following Clan Code Categories: Illegal Practices, Sinister Rituals, Adverse Medical Approaches, Harmful Acts, Injurious Relations, or Ominous Rites. It was merely left out of the most recent reprint based on the assumption that everyone already knew it was an abhorrent practice and ought not to be attempted.
The next evening, Frank answers the door, shocked to see Mr. Ross there. He had been expecting a courier, but here was the bone-skinny, imperious man himself, in a pristine suit and a hat, which he removed and handed to Frank along with his coat. There is a bearded man in a toga and sandals who enters with Mr. Ross. Mr. Ross does not acknowledge or introduce him and the man makes no effort to do so himself, only follows Mr. Ross, looking around confidently.
"Frank, is it?" Mr. Ross says. "You're Mr. Way's valet?"
Frank nods. "Yes, sir."
"How long have you been in his service?" Mr. Ross asks, as he follows Frank into the sitting room.
It's a polite enough question but perhaps overly friendly, considering their difference in rank. "Two years, sir," Frank says.
"And are you also in service to the younger Mr. Way?"
Frank hesitates. This question is so personal it is bordering on inappropriate, but it would be even more inappropriate for Frank to refuse to answer a direct question, though it makes him very uncomfortable that Ryan is asking about Mikey. "No, sir, the younger Mr. Way does not require my services," Frank says, which is true, and easier than explaining what he does anyway, despite Mikey's protests.
"And how do you feel about the influence of daylighters on our community?" Mr. Ross asks, and Frank bites his tongue. Mr. Ross seems to sense Frank's hesitation. "Oh, come on, you have to have a unique perspective, working for Mr. Way."
"Frank!" Gerard calls from down the hall.
"Excuse me, sir," Frank says, practically running toward the welcome interruption.
"Is he - " Gerard starts to ask and then stops. "Are you ok, Frank?"
Frank straightens himself up and unclenches his fists. "I'm fine, sir," he says, "Mr. Ross is here," Frank says and then adds, "And a guest. He was not introduced," Frank says in apology.
Gerard nods like he knew all of this would happen. "Show them in," Gerard says. "And then why don't you go work on the new closet shelving, I know it's been giving Brian trouble and he'd mentioned wanting it fixed. Would you mind doing that?"
Frank recognizes that Gerard is giving him an excuse not to stay while he talks to Mr. Ross, and Frank wouldn't take it except Mr. Ross' inquiries into Frank's political stances had felt oddly intrusive, and he didn't want to have to continue the conversation. "You'll be all right, sir?" Frank asks.
"I've endured many more meetings with Mr. Ross and his agenda," Gerard says, and then catches Frank's eyes and holds his gaze, and that's when Frank really believes him.
When Frank shows Mr. Ross and the strange, bearded man into Gerard's office, Mr. Ross turns and smiles at Frank, like he's showing his teeth, and says, "So nice to see you again, Frank," all of the syllables sharp, like it was perfectly rehearsed.
He goes to see Schechter. "Mr. Ross is here," Frank says.
"I thought I felt something bureaucratic," Schechter says. "That boy's no Pete Wentz. Gerard sent you to help me with the trick shelving. How are you with a saw?"
Gerard is painting with watercolors, the easel set up in the corner of his office, when Frank goes to check on him. Ross apparently found it appropriate to show himself out. Gerard only paints with watercolors when it has rained for too many days in a row or he is filled with rage, and he is quite furiously splashing a brush into a cup of water when Frank comes in to ask if he needs anything.
"Just time," Gerard says through gritted teeth. "That man has a very particular skill at pissing me off."
"It seems to be a widespread reaction to politicians," Frank says, and Gerard lets out a quiet, controlled laugh. "I'll be upstairs, if you need anything further this evening, Ger – sir," Frank says.
Midnighter Evening News Metro Edition: Celebrity Column
Ryan Ross, former protégé of Clandestine Movement Founder Pete Wentz, has been sighted around town more in these past few days than in the past year, according to reports from our neighborhood sources. Twice he has been seen visiting coffee shops but not buying any coffee. What could he have been drinking?
Fold this paper in thirds for tomorrow evening's weather forecast.
The next evening, Ross had officially come out of his public silence and issued a statement that was orchestrated to seem casual.
"If Pete Wentz was murdered by a daylighter, then we need to take that gesture for what it was meant to be, an attack against us and the way we do things. A rejection of who we are. We've held our hand out in friendship, and they've held out a stake."
Gerard slams down the newspaper, and then stares disconsolately at the ink on his fingers.
"Here, sir," Frank says, offering Gerard a towel, and slowly taking away the newspaper. "Should I assume Mr. Ross's statement has made it into the daylighter newspaper as well?"
"Ryan Ross's ridiculously orchestrated 'comment' has reached everywhere he intended it to," Gerard says. "He might as well have declared war. He waited until after he talked to me, too. I should have known better, he was trying to find out what information we had about the case. Goddamn it," Gerard shouts abruptly, standing up. "That was an amateur's mistake, I should have known better than to let Ryan Ross fool me. I need to speak with Brendon as soon as possible, will you send a message ahead to him?"
Frank isn't sure he's heard Gerard clearly. He is about to ask whether he'd meant Mr. Vaughn Stump, and not Mr. Urie, when the door chimes and Frank answers it to find Inspector Toro waiting, his uniform sharp and new, like he is getting used to midnighter hours and isn't wearing the same thing he'd worn all day.
"Good evening, Frank," Inspector Toro says. "Is Mr. Way available?"
Frank escorts him into the sitting room and offers him tea while he goes to check with Gerard. Frank already knows what the answer is going to be - he doesn't want to be delayed by Inspector Toro but he'll see him, otherwise, Frank wouldn't have let Inspector Toro in at all.
"Would you like me to stay?" Frank asks as Gerard makes a series of annoyed faces.
"No," Gerard says, "Thank you, Frank, I'll expect we're only going to argue about Ross and what we should do. As though collectively we have the power to solve the case faster just because the specter of Ryan Ross's New World is hanging over us. Although," Gerard says, after a moment, "Could you come back after about a quarter of an hour and bring some coffee? If I mention I'd like some sugar, then it means Inspector Toro is talking about the Blind Order again and I'll need a distraction. Can you do that?"
"Of course, sir," Frank says, and Gerard gives him a confidential smile.
This system, of keywords and codes and secret language had initially been Frank's suggestion. Gerard was not always the most subtle when he wanted out of something or was in some conversation or engagement he couldn't bear. He'd stutter or stammer, and Frank was at a loss until he learned to read what he wanted. Frank would come in and ask, in a voice that he reserved for only this sort of code, a polite disinterest he'd never used with Gerard because he'd never had to feign interest - telling Gerard there was some urgent family business, or that he had another appointment, or that some creature that would be most abhorrent to the current guest was on its way to arrive and did Sir want Frank to show the creature in. It had been a spectacular success. Gerard said he'd never had a valet who understood subtlety, never mind one who was capable of it, and soon Gerard came to rely on Frank as an excuse to get him out of anything, to bring a conversation to an end. It's why the rumors of Gerard's psychic ability spread, how he'd summon his valet with just the power of his mind.
Frank shows in Inspector Toro and checks the clock, starts counting off a quarter of an hour, busies himself with dusting the sitting room, polishing the wood of the table in the foyer that holds the dried black roses that Mikey brought Gerard as a joke and Gerard insists helps set the mood of the place.
Frank prepares the coffee, adds a bowl of sugar to the tray. He enters, not waiting for a pause in the conversation. Inspector Toro is talking about The Butcher, and Frank winces, because you're not supposed to speak his name aloud. Frank understands that Inspector Toro is not bound by the same laws that the midnighter community was, but he had to understand that you just aren't supposed to talk about certain people.
"How would you take your coffee this evening, sir?" Frank asks Inspector Toro when the moment in the conversation appears.
"Just milk, please," Inspector Toro says, and then continues, taking the hint that Frank is supposed to be invisible. "I just think we're missing something if we're not considering corruption within the Blind Order. You don't think someone like Ross here could infiltrate the judicial system?"
"And your coffee, sir?" Frank asks Gerard. "How would you like it today?"
"With sugar, please," Gerard says, pretending to be distracted by the newspaper again.
"So you don't think we should visit Ross together?" Inspector Toro asks.
"I wouldn't go alone if I were you, his associates can be over-protective, especially in the face of a daylighter investigator." Gerard says. "But I'm not going with you, I've already spoken to him, and once in a year is enough for me."
"It is the werewolf ball this evening," Frank says, "You might encounter roving parties of fancy dress werewolves on the way to Mr. Ross's, that's always entertaining."
Inspector Toro's face goes white.
"I'll just.... do a little more research, be back in touch with you in a few days," Inspector Toro says. "There are no, uh, fancy dress werewolves out there right now, are there?"
"I'll check for you, sir," Frank offers, and makes a show of opening the door and peering out.
"Thanks," Gerard says when Inspector Toro has taken his leave. "That was a brilliant thing about the werewolves."
"I recalled how unsettled Inspector Toro was by the lupine part of his interviews," Frank says. "And they do have a fancy dress party, too, but it's not for another month."
"Get us an invite to that, if you can," Gerard says. "I take it it's not wolves only?'
"No, sir, it's a fundraiser."
"I am already looking forward to it," Gerard says.
"I've sent a message to Mr. Urie and am waiting for his reply. Shall I leave you to work in the meantime?" Gerard looks lost for a moment, like he's going to say something else, and then nods curtly, and the moment of camaraderie, of fancy dress balls and secrets codes, is gone again, and Frank goes back to tidying, trying not to think of anything at all.
It becomes clearer each time they talk about something else that when the Wentz case comes back up, it's like a shield or armor comes over Gerard and he closes up, hides behind it. Frank doesn't have long to get stuck in wondering why Gerard is being so silent about the case, because Mr. Urie responds back, except not by letter, but in person.
"I'm so sorry," Spencer Smith says to Frank, as he opens the door for what appears to be two blanket-draped figures, clearly not used to traveling under cover of afghan, and repeatedly bumping in to each other. Spencer does his best to herd them inside and then shuts the door with an almighty sigh that betrays how much he has had to endure from their journey.
"You're safe now, sir," Spencer says, and Brendon takes off his blanket with a flourish.
"Hi!" he says, eyeing Frank again, "So very, very nice to see you again." Spencer clears his throat and Frank shoots Spencer an apologetic look, which Spencer just shrugs off.
"And Mr. Walker?" Spencer says, gesturing to the second blanketed figure, and Brendon takes the blanket off gently, murmuring apologies.
Under the blanket is Jon Walker, the gentleman who was with Ross at his last visit wearing a very handsome toga and flip flops. "I forget that you can't touch him," Brendon says.
"Sorry, it's not personal," Jon says to Spencer, and then winks. Spencer does not appear to know what to do with that gesture.
"I'm still working on how to extend the magic of his service," Brendon says. "Not everyone likes house spirits because they're bound to the family. Which is fine for my family, since they're part of the giant exclusionary enclosed world of the White Hands, but irritating when there are other people who want to interact with him."
"I thought you were Mr. Ross's house spirit," Frank says to Jon.
Jon shrugs. "I stayed after Brendon and Ryan broke up."
Spencer coughs and Brendon turns a little pink. "They're also terrible with secrets!" Brendon kind of fake-laughs, and then winces, because Frank knows that house spirits aren't supposed to tell a family's secret, it's part of their nature, like vampires' aversion to sunlight. "I mean, he's broken," Brendon says quickly.
"Oops," Jon says, but he doesn't seem bothered by the slip at all.
"Doesn't do well for clients like mine to know that I have a vampire ex-boyfriend."
"I'm sorry," Frank says, forgetting the weirdness that had happened before, because of the way Brendon's voice has gone all tight talking about Ross.
Brendon turns a very soft, very tender expression on Frank, and that's just when Gerard walks in.
"Sir," Frank says, "I'm sorry I didn't have the chance to announce our guests."
"We posed a very difficult group for welcome," Spencer jumps in, taking the responsibility onto himself. "We were getting everyone out of their disguises."
"Ah," Gerard says, looking at the pile of blankets, and then at the group assembled. "Mr. Urie, I see you weren't lying about your informant."
Frank is still reeling from the idea of Mr. Urie and Mr. Ross as a couple attached enough to one another for a family house spirit to willingly offer its service to a non-blood relative. He collects the blankets and Mr. Urie's coat, and Gerard takes Mr. Urie and Mr. Walker into his office, leaving the door ajar.
"Frank?" Gerard asks, and Frank peeks his head in and nods and then closes the door.
"So you are psychic then," Spencer says, and Frank laughs.
"No, no," Frank says. "He's just hungry, and we do this so often. I just know what to do."
"You often receive guests in such a strange manner?" Spencer sounds both baffled and impressed.
"Sometimes," Frank says. "Mr. Way's work covers some very questionable ground and often it's easiest for him and for the clients to come here. There's a certain cachet to being on the knife edge of reputable and disreputable."
"So do you have set menus for such occasions? You hardly exchanged a word with Mr. Way," Spencer says, following Frank down the hall.
"I was just going to get him some more coffee, and probably some cucumber sandwiches. He hasn't eaten since this morning and I'm sure he's too engaged to remember he's hungry. And," Frank says, turning to Spencer, "I assumed you'd tell me what Mr. Urie would like."
Spencer beams at him, the first time Frank's seen something other than the composed tight smile. "I regret to say I have very little information about Mr. Walker's preferences."
"He seems to like you fine enough," Frank says, and he thinks he's stepped over a line when Spencer just kind of tenses. Frank doesn't spend a lot of time with other valets, finds he's not really of their caliber, and he's so familiar with Gerard that he often doesn't have a lot of shared experience with prickly valets. Also, he's too busy helping Gerard, helping him with cases. But then Spencer puts his hands in his pockets and leans against the wall and lets his shoulders droop.
"I didn't know when I started working for Mr. Urie that he had a house spirit," Spencer says. "And he doesn't seem to understand that people who have house spirits do not also need valets, not unless their valet is at their summer house, and he keeps forgetting I can't actually do anything for Mr. Walker until his magic recognizes me as family and - "
"If you need help getting out of your contract, I'm sure Mr. Way could - "
Spencer puts his hand out to stop Frank from continuing. "It's not that. I like working for Mr. Urie. It's the hardest job I've ever had, the man has no idea how to act around a valet, and of all the other places I worked, this is the most undisciplined, the most - " He waves his hand around the Way Mansion's hallway, "The most random, and - and I love it."
Frank understands. Gerard is not a normal person to work for, not by any means, even setting aside all the casework. "Working for Mr. Way is...far from traditional," Frank says, and Spencer smiles.
"We need a club," Spencer suggests, "Support for non-traditional valets."
"That is a fantastic idea," Frank says, and starts assembling a tray of coffee, sandwiches, and candied almonds as Spencer suggests.
A Valet's Guide to Addressing an Individual of Unknown Peerage
If you find yourself speaking with an individual of unknown status or class in relation to your own, always take a more formal approach, though not so formal that you risk offending them. "Sir" is always appropriate for a stranger, and while "your supreme high commander" is never actually unwelcome, it may make the individual think you are being disrespectful.
Note: Attempt to refrain from improper gender-or-breed typing. "Sir" is sometimes inappropriate for non-gendered spirits, and some people just don't like to be called "madam."
By the time they make their way back to Gerard's office, Frank and Spencer are comrades in arms, and so it's easy for Frank to knock and tend to this crowd of people that are more servant staff than they are masters. Frank wants to be suspicious of Mr. Urie, especially now that he knows about Mr. Ross, but Gerard seems to accept the presence of Mr. Walker without question, and Frank knows that house spirits aren't exactly skilled at subterfuge. Still, there are too many pieces of the puzzle that Frank doesn't know, and so he takes his place by Gerard's desk and hangs on to the knowledge that he trusts Gerard, no matter how many things it seems like Gerard is keeping from him.
"And he's not going to notice your absence?" Gerard is asking Mr. Walker.
"He knows I've gone to see Brendon," Mr. Walker says, and Gerard looks shocked.
"No, no, that's normal, he comes to visit me every few weeks, it's part of the magic," Mr. Urie says, though he's got the same sort of look on his face that he did when he said that Mr. Walker was terrible with secrets, like it was a lie he was hoping no one would catch because he couldn't really explain his way out of it. "It's something Ryan actually expects. As much as I can guess what he expects anymore," Mr. Urie says and he sounds quite sad. Spencer puts his hand on Mr. Urie's shoulder, it's a very brief thing, but taking in everything Spencer said in the kitchen, Frank thinks maybe they ought to form a club after all.
Gerard asks Mr. Walker a series of increasingly specific questions which Frank can tell half-way through are leading to whether or not Mr. Walker thinks that Mr. Ross is going to make a grab for power. Frank knows Gerard wants the case solved before then, before any debate with Mr. Ross takes over the midnighter community, before the murderer uses the drama of Mr. Ross making declarations about policy changes and community separation to hide behind.
Gerard doesn't ask any of the questions Frank expects him to, about whether or not Mr. Walker has seen any shady individuals around, whether Mr. Urie knows anything about Mr. Ross's associates, or who he'd work with enough who might know what Mr. Ross would do, anticipate his actions and use it as cover. Gerard doesn't ask Mr. Smith about Mr. Ross's servant staff, or what other jobs or associations they hold, how they might be transporting information.
Gerard wraps up his questions in an unusually short time, his eyes flitting to the clock four times, like he has somewhere to be – and if he does, Frank doesn't know about it. Gerard thanks Mr. Smith and Mr. Urie, but not Mr. Walker, which strikes Frank as rude considering he did most of the talking. As Mr. Smith helps Mr. Urie on with his coat and then his blanket disguise, Frank helps Mr. Urie free his shirt cuff from a knitted edge of the blanket. He sees an intricate pattern of ink lines curling up Mr. Urie's wrist and up under the rest of his shirt sleeve.
"That's a very interesting tattoo, sir, if you'll permit me to remark on it," Frank says. Brendon's face shutters, and Frank's quick with an apology, thinking he's crossed some sort of line.
"No, it is very interesting," Brendon says, though his voice has a weird tinge of disapproval in it, like he was talking about someone else's tattoo.
"It binds him to me," Mr. Walker says, and Brendon stares at Mr. Walker.
"You mean, it binds you to him," Frank says. "It's part of the house spirit magic, isn't it?" Frank asks, because just because he hasn't heard of that sort of house spirit magic doesn't mean he doesn't know something about some of the really old traditions.
"Yeah, ok," Mr. Walker says, nodding, and Brendon nods, too.
"Goodnight," Spencer says to Frank, once Gerard has pressed one last piece of paper into Mr. Urie's hand and Mr. Urie and Mr. Walker are in the carriage. "And I look forward to our club meeting." Spencer says with a grin, and hops up into the carriage.
"Your club meeting?" Gerard asks, looking confused.
"For valets with non-traditional masters," Frank says, and to his delight, Gerard's smile is wide and bright, and he isn't offended.
"Oh, I know I'm non-traditional," Gerard says. "And even if I tried to be a little more like everyone else, I am not sure I could do it. I like you, Frank, I wouldn't want to ignore you except to ask you to wash my socks and bring me coffee."
"Thank you, sir."
"And you agree with Mr. Smith's observation that Mr. Urie is also a non-traditional employer?"
"Indeed, sir," Frank says. "Beyond his inability to tell how he should behave around his valet and understand what he's supposed to let Mr. Smith do for him, he's entirely casual and does not instinctively recognize midnighter class lines."
"No, he wouldn't," Gerard says, but doesn't explain.
"And there's Mr. Walker," Frank says. Gerard only nods, so he continues. "He seems far more...confident than I've ever seen a house spirit before. And Mr. Urie doesn't seem – well, comfortable isn't the word, but he doesn't seem like he grew up with Mr. Walker around the way I would have imagined a house spirit might have been."
"Mmm," Gerard says. "They do seem to act like they're still getting to know each other." Gerard finishes the dregs of his coffee, and Frank is quick to pour him more from the fresh carafe. "Thank you, Frank." Gerard says, and then he looks up at Frank in the way that makes Frank's stomach flip, the wide-open expression that means all of Gerard's attention is on Frank, and he isn't taking apart a case in the back of his mind or distracted by anything else. That he's just there, looking at Frank. "Frank," Gerard says slowly. "Do you wish you had a more traditional master?"
"No," Frank says quietly. "No, sir, not at all."
"Good," Gerard says, and smiles that serene smile, soft eyes and soft mouth. He feels like Gerard's about to say something else when his eyes flit to the clock again. He stands abruptly and says, "I'm going to the greenhouse," and rushes off without another word.
Frank cleans up the trays and the coffee and wonders what sort of plant Gerard has in there that requires so much of his time that he's keeping appointments with it. Frank has never wished more than these past few days that he could follow Gerard into the greenhouse, to see what he's doing in there.
Tips on Tomato Sauce
Given the recent confusion with the new street lantern design and the helpful feedback we've received from the werewolf community, we've begun this series of Frequently Confused Objects for people and creatures new to the midnighter community or visitors with little experience with common midnighter symbols.
This week's feature is on why there is a distinct lack of Italian restaurants in the predominantly vampire neighborhood on the east side. Tomatoes can be very confusing food for new vampires or for visitors with little experience with how vampires feed. Tomato sauce is by far the food item most often mistaken for blood. It is extremely important that you do not confuse a person who has just had pasta with a vampire. Keep in mind that vampires are generally very neat feeders, and that they do not often eat in restaurants.
Remember, familiarity with proper creature identification etiquette saves everyone from awkwardness.
Gerard does not usually spend much time in the greenhouse in the evenings, but he's been in there almost all of the night after their visit from Mr. Urie. Frank could actually go out to check on him, since half the danger of the greenhouse is gone when it's dark out, but Frank knows it's Gerard's personal space, and if he really wanted something from Frank, he'd have asked for it by now.
It's several hours past midnight when Gerard finally comes out, and Frank is just about to ask Gerard whether everything is all right when the doorbell rings. Gerard hurries directly to his office and shuts the door.
"Frank," Bob says, nodding, like they've been introduced. Like it isn't both deeply unusual and alarmingly suspicious that Bob is here less than a day after Inspector Toro has mentioned his complete inability to get a response back from anyone in the Blind Order. Bob doesn't wait for Frank to offer to take his coat, or to announce that Bob is here to Gerard, he just marches over to Gerard's office and says, "It's Mr. Bryar," to the closed door, which Gerard opens enough to let Mr. Bryar in and then closes again. Frank will not feel put out.
Frank goes to his room, because it's almost daylight, and he wonders if Bob has just misjudged the time. Frank thinks it doesn't matter at this point - Frank knows there is something going on and Gerard isn't going to tell him and if Gerard is mixed up with the Blind Order, with Bob Bryar, Frank isn't even sure there is anything he could do.
A feeling of despondency, of sadness, creeps over him as he changes out of his evening uniform and into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, wondering about whether it would make him feel worse to go out to the valet club.
Instead of going out, he goes to see Jamia. He's crawling into her apartment and yanking the curtain closed just as the sun is peeking up over the horizon.
"Is that you, Frankie? Of course it's you, who else would cut it so close to daylight? Did you forget that you got turned into a creature of the night?"
Jamia is Frank's daylighter ex-girlfriend. They broke up when Frank became a vampire, though Frank knows it was hard on Jamia before that, too, with Frank sick more often than not.
"I couldn't have lived with a vampire, even if it was you, Frankie," she told him. "First of all, I'd never have seen you. I couldn't do the night-time day thing, you know me, when have I ever been able to stay up past 9?" She'd say, "We came from different places."
The truth was, they came from the same place, which was the main reason they could still be friends after what had been a break-up full of shouting fights that had gone on too long.
It was true, too, and it happens to a lot of mixed daylighter-midnighter couples. It isn't just the hours, though; it is hard for vampires to live in a mostly daylighter community when there are still so many adjustment issues. The Clan Code couldn't change people's minds overnight, or transform years of belief that midnighter creatures were dangerous to daylighters.
"So what's wrong," Jamia asks, brushing her hair back and putting on her make-up. She'd shooed Frank away from making breakfast. "You're not at work, stop trying to do everything for me," Jamia said. "You're a guest right now, you remember how to just sit on your ass, don't you?"
"Nothing's wrong," Frank says, though she rolls her eyes at him.
"I haven't heard from you since Pete's funeral. And then there were the riots in the daylighter-midnighter shared business sector the past few days - "
"I thought the Governor's office said it wasn't actually a riot."
"Well, it wasn't," Jamia says. Jamia works for the daylighter government as a policy researcher for the midnighter community, but the way Frank understands it, she's become a close advisor to the Governor.
"It was a gathering that was quickly dispersed. Anyway, we don't call anything a riot unless the Governor calls it that. And she wasn't about to call anything after Pete Wentz's death a riot. And we were talking about you, so don't change the subject."
"Nothing's wrong," Frank says again, petulantly.
"And that's why you're in my apartment in the middle of the morning? You felt like a little sun poisoning? What's going on with Gerard?"
"Nothing's going on with Gerard!" Frank says, and he realizes, too late, that he's let too much slip. Jamia just looks at him with her mascara wand halfway lifted to her eyes.
"I meant what's going on with the case. I heard he was on the investigation. But clearly," she says, "That's not the issue, is it?"
Frank hadn't really meant to come here to talk, he just needed to be somewhere that wasn't the Way mansion, somewhere that wasn't his old apartment, somewhere he didn't have to think. But he should have known that Jamia would draw things out of him, it was why he talked to her in the first place.
"I think he's involved in what happened to Pete," Frank says, and it doesn't sound any less crazy when he says it aloud, they way he'd hoped it would, as though by saying it he could just disperse his own fears.
"You think he's involved, or you're worried he's involved?" Jamia asks, like he hasn't just said something horrible and heart-wrenching.
"There are all these daytime meetings with Patrick," Frank says, "And Bob Bryar. And he's not doing a very good job with the investigation. There are all these pieces he's skipping."
Jamia looks unconvinced. "I'm sorry, Frankie, I don't know what to tell you. I haven't seen what you've seen, so I guess I don't really know, but it doesn't sound like it's enough to make you think Gerard is actually involved somehow. It's Gerard," she says, like it's enough, and it should be. "Maybe he's setting a trap," Jamia says.
It had occurred to Frank, but he hadn't liked the idea, because it just brought up another question. "Why couldn't he tell me, then?" Frank asks, and Jamia just shakes her head.
"Oh, sweetie, I don't blame you, that boy is weirdly charming, and he's the best detective I've ever met, but if that's what this is about, then I'm sorry, but you're going to have to talk to him."
Frank was quiet for the rest of the time Jamia was getting dressed, putting his feet up on her coffee table, crossing his arms and trying not to watch the progress of the sun behind her curtains.
"How's work?" Frank asks. Jamia gives him a hollow laugh.
"How do you think it is?"
"So the Governor's heard Ross's latest?"
"Are you kidding? He sent her a handwritten version, and requested a private meeting. He's something else."
"Have you met him?" Frank asks.
Jamia shakes her head. "He's pretty good at appearing in public and never letting anyone get a hold of him. Listen, sweetie, if you need me, I can call out of work, but you'd better at least buy me dinner. I deserve that if I'm going to have to spend all day talking to you when it's like pulling teeth."
"It's fine, go to work, I can hang out here. I'll clean up."
"You will not!" Jamia says. "Jesus, give a guy a job as a valet.... You can stay, or I'll send a cab from the office, they have those special Clan Code ones now for the visiting representatives."
"The Governor won't mind?"
"Are you kidding? This is the perfect reason to bring up the proposal about an underground transit for midnighters. Once I tell Lindsey the other option was that I left you holed up in my apartment all day, she'll understand."
Frank naps on the couch, sleeping fitfully. Finally, he rouses to the steady, repetitious sound of a car horn. He figures it has to be the cab Jamia has sent, and he goes all the way to her door, trying to figure out how he'll get from the door of her house to the door of the carriage, about 15 seconds in 11 AM daylight, enough to give him a pounding headache and probably burn his hands and face, when a cloaked figure steps down from the driver's side and extends a giant awning.
"The Governor invents cool stuff," Frank says to the driver.
"Indeed, sir," the driver says, and then helps Frank into the car. The driver removes his hood and reveals himself to be Dewees. "Frankie," he says, like he's left things unresolved by calling him sir.
"Am I hallucinating?" Frank asks, because the last thing he knew, Dewees wasn't a driver. "I mean, I didn't actually know you could drive."
"Amazing what a zombie can be taught with a firm enough command," Dewees says. "And you could be hallucinating, too, you are a few minutes away from the onset of level-one mid-morning sun poisoning, you asshole."
"I didn't mean - " Frank starts.
"Save it for your master," Dewees says as the car takes off. "I'm here to take you home, not to judge."
Frank held his head in his hands. "Well, ok, I'll judge," Dewees says seconds later. "You know me, I'll judge a lot. You're an idiot, what the hell are you doing out in the middle of the day?"
"I was just – "
"Visiting your daylighter ex-girlfriend, sure, totally normal in the middle of the morning," Dewees says, and then at an intersection, "Which way?"
"Left," Frank says, without having to look out the window.
"That's weird," Dewees says. "Your inner compass or whatever."
"No less weird than the fact that you know the directions but still get hung up on choices of left or right."
"Hey, you try being a zombie," Dewees says, "Choices are hard, it's nice to have them taken away."
"Poetic again," Frank says. His head is really hurting, and maybe that's what makes him feel like there's some hidden wisdom in Dewees' words, if he can just puzzle it out.
"You ain't got a choice, Frankie, you've already made it." Dewees says. "Now close your eyes, and put that blanket over your head, we're almost there and I won't have your sorcerer all up in my face because I aided in your sun poisoning."
Schechter is there to get the door, alarmed by the strange vehicle and even more alarmed when Frank steps out into the daylight. Dewees gives him a shove inside and then climbs back in the car.
"Give the Governor my best," Schechter shouts, and Dewees waves as he takes off. "What the fuck," Schechter says, examining Frank.
"I went to see Jamia," Frank says. "Misjudged the time," he adds, lying as though Schechter might not catch him in it.
"Is everything ok?" is all Schechter says.
"Everyone keeps asking me that!" Frank says, and Schechter just stares at him.
"I can come get you, next time you're out in the middle of the day, if you don't want Gerard to know," Schechter says.
"It's not that I didn't want him to know," Frank says. "It's just - "
"He's asleep," Schechter says. "He was pretty upset when he realized you were gone."
"It wasn't some secret trip, it was just Jamia, I just - "
"He was worried," Schechter says. "About the daylight, that's all. You're usually more careful."
Schechter leaves it at that. Frank feels chastened by both of them, even though he knows that he's wrong, and it was careless.
Memo from the Governor's Office to All Dual Daylighter/Midnighter Transit Services
Please refrain from further use of antique lace curtains as window coverings during daylight hours for midnighter passengers.
Antique lace curtains are:
- highly flammable when combined with standard vehicle sun proofing extract/spells/a burning vampire
- not Clan Code Sun Proofing compliant
- not meant for use in vehicles
- mostly, though, highly flammable
If you are unfamiliar with the dangers of sun poisoning and/or flaming curtains to midnighters or anyone who can be burned by fire, please read the Summary of Midnighter Concerns for Business Owners.
Frank sleeps for a while in his coffin, but hardly more than an hour. He wakes up ravenous, drinks two bags of blood, and thinks that maybe it was ridiculously stupid to go out so close to daylight, without any food, without a way of getting back. It's just the idea that Gerard's involved somehow in Pete's murder, not knowing how, being kept in the dark by Gerard, it's driving him crazy. He vows to say something today, to ask Gerard what it is that he's keeping secret, to assure Gerard that he can trust Frank, that Frank will help him no matter what. That they can fix this, whatever this is, without Bob from the Blind Order, without letting Ross get into power.
He brings Gerard coffee and lays out his clothes, and then goes to clean the office because they're expecting a client. Gerard barely remembers scheduling this person, or what the case is about, but he also hasn't had his coffee, so there's no surprise in that.
Frank cleans up file folders and evidence and he does not, be absolutely does not, open the top file on the Wentz case, the file he saw Gerard put the paper Bob gave him in yesterday. He could look, he knows Gerard wouldn't leave it out if he didn't really trust him....
The office looks pristine again by the time Gerard arrives, putting his jacket on inside out. Frank hurries over to where Gerard is standing, slips the coat from his shoulders, and sets it right, brushing non-existent dust from Gerard's shoulders.
"Everything should be all set for your client, sir," Frank says, "Whose arrival is imminent. I've placed the file you created when he schedule the appointment here," Frank says, gesturing to Gerard's desk. "I'll show him in and then go get some more coffee," Frank says.
Gerard nods emphatically. "Yes, more coffee, definitely," Gerard says. He looks at the folder. "Nick Jonas? Huh, I really don't remember him. Why would I take a case during the Wentz case? Did I take it on before? Do you recall, Frank?"
"No, sir, I do not," Frank says. "But it might be the collector with the psychic doll problem? He did call about a week ago and this would have been your first opening after the Salpeter case was finished."
Gerard nods, but like he's still not really quite sure.
Frank hears the door alarm sound and excuses himself to let in the client, who does not look familiar to Frank, either.
Frank checks the guy in, makes fill out the new client information sheet, shows him into Gerard's office, and then Frank tackles him when the guy pulls an engraved dagger from beneath his jacket, and makes to jump over Gerard's desk. Gerard barely has had time to get to his feet when Frank has the guy on the floor and knocked out cold with a few well-placed blows to the head. Frank straightens up to see Gerard rushing at him, and for a second Frank can't tell if Gerard is confused about who the attacker is. Frank has time to think it isn't the first time he's done something good and got pegged as the bag guy for it.
But then Gerard is pushing Frank up against the wall, Gerard's fingers in the material of Frank's shirt, and Gerard's mouth is on Frank's, hot and insistent. Frank's hands are in Gerard's hair before he knows what he's doing, and they kiss like that, Frank wavering between lust and self-consciousness - thinking of how it probably wasn't ok at all for the valet to be kissing the boss, until Frank hears the imposter client getting up off the floor, and Frank pulls back from Gerard to pick up one of the fancy chairs and knock it over the assailant, who crumples back down on the ground. Schechter comes running in at that moment, while Frank is still holding what is left of the chair, Gerard is wiping his mouth with his hand and tugging lose his tie, and the impostor is still on the ground, his engraved dagger knocked far from his reach.
"Interesting," Schechter says, taking in the scene.
"Thanks," Gerard says quietly to Frank as they look down at the guy.
"Who sent you?" Schechter says, cold and intense, picking up the edge of the knife with the corner of a handkerchief. The guy whimpers.
Schechter examines the knife. He looks at Frank, and then at Gerard one more time before grabbing the guy by the collar and holding the knife to his face. "Who's your master?" Schechter whispers, and the guy shivers.
"Come on, Schechter's got this," Frank says, steering Gerard out of the room, and it takes Gerard's attention a moment to adjust from where it was lingering on Frank's mouth.
"That was - " Gerard says, "That was – he's not still dangerous?" Gerard asks, redirecting. "You think Schechter's ok?"
"Not if a chair took him out," Frank says.
"You took him out," Gerard said, quite fondly.
They don't talk about the kiss, not as Frank draws Gerard a bath, not as they hear Schechter's report that the guy knew nothing, only that someone left him a bunch of money to come here and attack Gerard. Frank files it away in 'Gerard's reactions to being attacked by impostor clients with magical if ineffective daggers' as though that is the only reason it happened. And Frank isn't sure how else to think about it if that isn't the case. Except for how he can't stop thinking about how much he had liked it. How good it had felt, how intense and urgent, how perfect it had been to have all of Gerard's attention focused on him. How hot Gerard's mouth had been. How Frank is absolutely certain he won't be able to look at Gerard and not feel that kiss for days, maybe longer.
Gerard spends the better part of the daylight with Mr. Vaughn Stump. Schechter accompanies him, and Frank doesn't even feel put out by it, because if Gerard really does have someone after him, Frank wants Schechter there with him. Frank sleeps, convincing himself someone will wake him if there's another attack, trying to reassure himself how unlikely that is that there will even be another attack. Trying not to wonder if Mr. Vaughn Stump has any information on the assailant.
The next evening, when Frank wakes, he checks to see that Gerard is fast asleep in his rooms (and Schechter shouts that Frank had better think twice before checking in on him just as Frank's about to turn the knob of Schechter's room.)
Frank is about to go out to the valet club as the back door entrance opens. It's past sunset, but Frank steps back automatically behind the protective curtain as the door shuts. He hears the surrounding curtains being tugged aside and when he steps back out to greet who he assumes must be Cortez, or somehow Schechter if he was practicing being in two places at once again. Instead, Frank is looking up at Mikey.
"Hi," Mikey says, He looks exhausted, his shoulders drooping.
"Sir," Frank says, though he really wants to wrap Mikey in a hug.
"Don't 'sir' me, Frank," Mikey says, some of his usual self returning. "Though if you feel possessed with the need to fulfill some valet duty, you can dig up something for me to eat. Don't wake Cortez, just heat something up."
"Soup?" Frank asks, thinking of what Gerard had for lunch yesterday.
"Perhaps sleep might better address your apparent weariness," Frank says, polite but with a smirk.
Mikey just scoffs and shakes his head. "I'm going to go upstairs and change."
Mikey is half way up the stairs before Frank manages to say, "I'm assuming you don't want me to call your brother?"
Mikey seems to give the question due consideration before he says, "Nope. We're still fighting." in a cheery tone.
"He's worried," Frank calls Mikey but he's already gone up the stairs.
Frank feels a sense of euphoria spreading over him as he heats up Mikey's soup. Mikey's come back, Mikey's being sarcastic about fighting with Gerard, and Mikey is not a vampire. Cortez, who was never actually sleeping, elbows Frank out of the way as soon as he's retrieved the soup from the ice box, because he won't let anyone in his kitchen, and Frank busies himself preparing a tray, a folded napkin, and some warmed towels in the hopes that Mikey will see fit to wash away some of the grime.
Upstairs, Mikey is wearing new pants and a shirt and is splashing water from the jug over his face. Frank hands him a warmed towel, because the basin water must be freezing.
"If you'd have let us know you were coming, we could have had the water warmed," Frank says.
"You just can't help yourself, can you?" Mikey says. "What did you do before you were a valet, were you a nursemaid?"
"I was your mom," Frank says and Mikey snickers. "And no one's born into service anymore," Frank says. After a moment, he adds, "I just like taking care of people."
"You're taking care of my brother?" Mikey asks in a soft voice.
Frank nods. "Tell me where you've been and I'll be able to do a better job of stopping him from worrying himself sick."
"I've been trying to find out things," Mikey says. "Investigating. Except, not Gerard's way. Just - asking around," Mikey says, and Frank suspects what Mikey means by asking around isn't as casual as conversations in pubs and hangouts. "And I found something out," Mikey says.
Frank waits, urging himself not to ask.
"It's got something to do with Bob Bryar," Mikey says, and Frank feels sick. He'd been hoping Mikey would say something else, any other name than that.
"What makes you say that," Frank says, trying to sound at least surprised.
"You know he's in the Blind Order, right?" Mikey says, stirring his soup like he's waiting for some information to make itself clear in the broth.
"No one's supposed to know who's in the Blind Order," Frank says, though the look Mikey gives him tells Frank Mikey doesn't believe that at all.
"And yet," Mikey says, and nothing else, while he finally takes a few spoonfuls of the soup. "Also, I went to see Alicia."
"You were with the fairies?" Frank asks.
"There are lots of fairies," Mikey says. "Not just the ones who attacked Pete. The way they talk, no one really knew the whole story about that attack, anyway."
"There were lots of stories," Frank says. "But the one that mattered was that the fairies were the most vocal group opposing the Clan Code."
"There are lots of fairies," Mikey says again, and begins unpacking his bag, which is full of small cloth-wrapped bags.
"Those aren't curse bags, are they?"
Mikey sighs. "They're seeds for Gerard's greenhouse." Frank relaxes, until Mikey says, "Well, this one's a curse bag." He holds it up to the light, and Frank reaches for it and grabs it from him, opens the ribbon tie - more seeds. Mikey laughs. "I did borrow this, though," he says he pulls from his bag what is unmistakably a spirit board.
"And that's going to tell you how Bob Bryar was involved?"
Mikey sits on the floor, his legs crossed, and begins to set up the spirit board on the floor. "It's going to let me talk to Pete," Mikey says, "I'll just ask him."
Frank waits for this to be a joke, too, like the curse bag, but Mikey seems perfectly serious. "Shhh," Mikey says, pressing his fingers to the rune guide.
"Don't let Schechter see you with that," Frank says, gathering Mikey's food tray and sneaking out of the room while Mikey's eyes are closed.
"Close the door," Mikey says, still not looking up.
"Yes, sir," Frank says, but Mikey does not correct him.
Frank thinks the seeds must be a peace offering for Gerard, but the idea that Mikey believes he can talk to Pete? There are fairy experts who can talk to spirits who are still on this plane, but vampire spirits – are more complicated. Being turned into a vampire weakens the link between your body and spirit, so when you did die, your spirit moves on faster, and doesn't linger.
Frank doesn't believe the crazy daylighter doctrine about souls - that daylighters have them and that once you become a midnighter - or if you're born that way - you don't have one. Frank has always thought souls are part of what made you - you. Frank thinks of Dewees, who is just a creature under the control of another, but it isn't like Frank doesn't think he has a soul.
Mikey, though, reaching out to the spirit world to talk to Pete is unsettling. It isn't like there aren't people who can do it, but no one really knows what the spirit world is like, and the ones who do aren't going to talk about it. Mikey hasn't said not to tell Gerard, but Frank also knows exactly what Gerard's reaction would be, so he decides to tell Schechter.
Frank knocks, and this time there is no commanding voice telling him to fuck off. The door swings open. Frank sees the wave of Schechter's hand as he closes it again behind him. Schechter is meticulously cutting at some pieces of paper with a small knife.
"Mikey's here," Frank says, trying not to ask what Schechter's doing, because he usually doesn't want to know or can't understand Schechter's explanation anyway.
"I heard him," Schechter says.
"He's trying to contact the spirit world," Frank says and Schechter only grunts. "With a spirit board that Alicia gave him," Frank adds, because the two are entirely different, and Schechter stands up, upending a flurry of tiny pieces of paper, and runs out the door past Frank and up the stairs.
Later, while Frank is folding the laundry and pressing Gerard's ties and starching his collars (though not too starched because Gerard doesn't like them too tight) he hears them shouting, Schechter first, then Mikey, then Gerard. Gerard shouts for two things: a suspect who's accused of doing a particularly appalling crime, and his brother. Frank's seen both and neither of them are good in any way. Gerard is like a spinning top that winds itself up beyond control. He spins without direction, jumps over things, loses course. He'd think it was incomprehensible if he didn't know him well enough, didn't know all the things he was trying to say. But Mikey knows him, the Way brothers share a language, and so when the shouting finally stops, Frank isn't surprised to find both of their doors closed upstairs and Schechter hanging a picture back up on the wall.
He also has Mikey's spirit board tucked under his arm.
"Would you like me to take it back to Alicia?" Frank asks.
"Oh no," Schechter says. "She gave it to Mikey and it's Mikey's, but he's in no fit state to use it right now, and I don't need the ghost of Elena walking around here, wonderful woman though she was. We'd spend the whole evening talking about how I need to nurture my creative spirit."
Frank is still so overjoyed at the fact that Mikey's back in the house and that the brothers are talking – even if it's still just shouting – that he leans in to Gerard's room with a big grin on his face, greeting him with a cheery, "Can I get anything for you, sir?"
Gerard looks up, startled, and Frank distinctly sees Gerard lick his bottom lip. Frank realizes abruptly that this is the first time they've talked since the still unexplained post-attack kiss. Frank pulls himself up to stand a little straighter and says, "I'm sorry, sir, I'm interrupting –"
"No!" Gerard kind of shouts. "I mean, come in, I'm just thinking about the case."
Frank has to bite back a remark that perhaps Gerard means that he should leave then, and Gerard seems to sense it, and he says, softly, "Frank, I'm sorry, I wish I could say the case would be over soon, but I just don't –"
They both freeze when they hear Mikey's shouting. "Oh! Oh! Oh!" he hears, in a panicked voice as he yanks open the door, Gerard just behind him, the two of them stumbling through the hallway.
"Mikey?" Gerard shouts, catching up to Frank. The shouting has stopped, but they're still both running toward there the sound was coming from, which turns out to be the foyer, where Mikey is standing, his coat on, staring up at nothing on the stairs. Frank and Gerard thunder down and Schechter gets to Mikey first, grabs him by the shoulders and looks him in the eye.
"What's wrong, Mikey?" Gerard asks, his hands on Mikey's shoulders, Schechter shaking his head that he can see nothing wrong. But Mikey's face is still pale and slack.
"Pete," Mikey says quietly. "I saw Pete."
"What?" Frank says. Gerard looks too shocked to speak.
"Pete. He was standing right at the top of the stairs. I was just - I was just about to go out and he was there and then he just sort of stared at me and then he disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Schechter asks. "You saw Pete's ghost? Were you using the spirit board? I thought I told you how dangerous - "
"No," Mikey says. "I swear, I wasn't doing anything, I just came in to the hall and I saw him there. It looked like he had just come from the greenhouse hall. He looked sad," Mikey adds, almost to himself. Gerard wraps Mikey in a hug.
"Come on, let's go sit down. Frank, can you get us - "
"Yes sir," Frank says, off to get cocoa, warm milk, a blanket to throw over Mikey's shoulders, When he returns, he sees Schechter laying protective sigils over all the doors.
"You would have told me if you'd seen Pete's ghost, right?" Schechter asks Frank.
Frank nods. "Yeah," Frank says. "Don't think I could have helped myself, honestly."
"Because this isn't good, this really isn't good." Frank stands waiting until Schechter notices that there is a cup of warm milk on the tray for him.
"You little shit," Schechter says, and Frank just smiles, and then carries the tray into Gerard's room. Mikey is sitting on the chaise, his shoes off, his arms crossed tightly over his chest, Frank brings him the blanket, drapes it over the back of the chaise, and then hands him and Gerard their cocoa and warm milk.
"You don't think he's here because he's angry with me," Mikey asks in a small voice just as Frank is collecting Mikey's shoes and setting them by the door.
"No," Gerard says firmly. "Oh, god, no, Mikey. Pete wouldn't be mad at you for still living."
Mikey looks unconvinced and Gerard wears a very pained expression on his face.
When Frank checks back, Mikey is asleep on Gerard's chaise, the blanket draped over his legs and tugged up over his shoulders. Gerard is still sitting up, his cup of cocoa half-finished, still in his had. "Sir?" Frank whispers, and Gerard sees him and comes to stand by the door.
"I'm just going to watch him," Gerard says.
"Of course, sir."
"I knew this was going to be difficult, but - it's all my fault," Gerard says like he can't help himself.
"Of course it's not your fault, sir," Frank says, "If I may be so bold, I think it would be worse for Mikey if he didn't have you."
"But when I'm the one causing all these problems, I'm the one who - " Gerard stops, his face expressionless. "I'm sorry, Frank, it's nearly noon, perhaps you should get some sleep."
Frank knows a dismissal when he hears one, and though he wants to ask what Gerard means, why Gerard is blaming himself, he goes back to his coffin, where he thinks about all the stories he's ever heard about hauntings and revenge. He does sleep, eventually, though not for a long time.
Blessings from the Community of the White Hand
Do not be misled by charismatic wolves in sheep's clothing. Vampires may look and act like the friends and loved ones you lost, but they are no longer those people. They lost their life and their light when they became creatures of darkness. They have powerful means of enticement and persuasiveness, and will tell you lies about how they still have half a soul, or their soul has traveled on without them and is only waiting for them to reunite at the right time. All they want to do is to infect you with a demon, and drag you from the path.
Join us for a meeting on Tuesday night and find your way back.
Things aren't actually any better the next evening, though, because Frank wakes to Gerard letting lose a string of curses about Ryan Ross, who has apparently released another statement about how the continued elusiveness of Pete's killer makes it even more apparent that it was a daylighter, or a daylighter plot, because any midnighter would come forth to be dealt the proper justice, because that was the way the midnighter community worked.
"He is using Pete's death like it's campaign issue," Gerard says, as Frank pulls himself awake to serve Gerard coffee and then excuses himself to get something to drink. "Bring it back, will you?" Gerard says, "I need to get some things done and we need to talk about where we're going."
Frank sits with the bag of blood and drinks, trying to be discreet, like he's sipping coffee, but Gerard isn't paying any attention. Frank still isn't used to it, how familiar Gerard is with midnighter practices, how he didn't react like Frank was doing anything other than eating breakfast, as normal as Gerard drinking his coffee.
"Frank, I need you to tell me who you think would be the most likely suspect in this case," Gerard says and Frank just stares at him, wiping his mouth with a napkin and tucking it over the empty blood bag.
"Sir?" Frank says, because he has absolutely no idea why Gerard is asking him. Gerard is just staring at him, waiting for an answer, so Frank's hopes that Gerard is asking a hypothetical question are dashed.
"Who are our main suspects?" Gerard asks, like he's lost his memory, like he's new to the case.
"I...have no idea, sir. I haven't been able to follow your progress in the case – "
"No," Gerard says shaking his head vigorously. "Forget the progress in the case. Who are the most likely people to have made an attempt on Pete's life?"
"Are you...pretending as though we've wiped the slate clean, sir, to….give yourself perspective?" Frank is casting about wildly, trying to find some solid ground, because Gerard sounds particularly crazy right now, and Frank needs to know what's going on before he can proceed.
"Yes!" Gerard says empathically. "Absolutely. So, the suspects. Tell me who you'd interview, Frank. Who should I call in this evening?"
"Well, there's William Beckett," Frank says, and Gerard is staring at him, wide-eyed. It's the first person name that pops into his head, and the truth is, he can't really think straight with Gerard looking at him like that, not while trying to figure out what in the world Gerard wants him to say.
"Why William?" Gerard asks, fascinated, like Frank is telling him something he doesn't already know.
"Well, he had a fight with Pete the night before the murder. I saw him after, when I was on my way to the valet's monthly meeting, he looked quite upset."
"Bring me William," Gerard says, standing up abruptly. "And find a way to aggravate Inspector Toro so he'll come storming over here after. And make William's summons public. I want Ross to see me working."
"Yes, sir," Frank says, still looking at Gerard warily. Frank can only assume this is some ruse that is something so advanced he'll never puzzle it out. Still, the flush of being included again, even if he has no idea what is actually going on in the case, is enough to reassure him that Gerard knows what he is doing and that Frank is the one who can't figure things out. The new confidence makes Frank feel better than he has since the case started.
It's been fifteen minutes since Mr. Beckett had arrived, and Gerard is just sitting with his elbows on his knees, leaning toward Mr. Beckett, who is sitting back casually, his long legs crossed in front of him, like professional courtesan or siren charmer, least of all head of Clan's department of Health and Non-Human Services. But Gerard is not flirting, he is biding his time, waiting for Mr. Beckett to notice that Gerard isn't going to be the one to speak first.
"The trip was arranged by Pete, check the paperwork," Mr. Beckett says, finally giving in, and Frank notices that Gerard sits back the moment that Mr. Beckett begins speaking.
"I came back as soon as I could."
Frank can feel that Gerard is holding back, that he has questions he wants to demand from William, but he has to slow his approach to get what he wants. Gerard is very good at this, at knowing what he has to do to get what he needs from a suspect, even if it's just waiting, if it's just sitting the right way. Mr. Beckett doesn't even try to be evasive.
"Before you left, you were seen arguing with Pete. What were you arguing about?" Gerard asks.
"Personal things," Mr. Beckett says.
"Was it about Mikey?" Gerard says and startles Frank so much he almost drops the tray he's holding.
Mr. Beckett looks positively insulted. "If you're accusing me of murdering Pete out of some sort of ex-lover's fit of rage - " He stops and composes himself. "Did you think to ask the witnesses to my argument with Pete how Pete looked? Whether he was shouting?" They stare at each other and Gerard gives nothing away. Frank is still so far behind because he can't believe that Gerard had brought up Mikey. "Pete was the one who started the fight, ok, I was really just checking in about the trip, and Pete was the one who brought up old wounds."
"How old are these wounds?" Gerard asks, a little heartlessly, Frank thinks.
Mr. Beckett looks momentarily hurt, but then his expression clears. "I need to speak with Travis before dawn - about business, unless you'd like to come along and see him as well, and interview me about my complete relationship history. If that's the case, you ought to call Mr. Saporta, too, I'm sure he'd be happy to lavish you with details."
Mr. Beckett walks out when Gerard doesn't answer, and it's only when the door closes that Gerard curses.
Frank is about to ask if there's anything he can do, or politely point out that perhaps keeping Mikey out of his interviews might serve him better in the future, when Gerard stands up, and then suddenly he grins, almost manically, at Frank.
"That went well, don't you think?" Gerard says with glee.
Frank is at a loss.
"Inspector Toro should be here momentarily," Gerard says. "Delay him for a few minutes and then send him in."
"Yes, sir," Frank says hesitantly.
Inspector Toro does indeed call a few moments later, and Frank has to offer twice that he's welcome to stay in the sitting room and not call back later, because he expects Gerard to be available in just a few moments. He does his best to be polite and vague, though the truth is he is as out of sorts as Inspector Toro looks in a room alone with Frank.
Inspector Toro finally takes a seat when Frank offers to have a glass of beer brought up.
"Thank you, Frank, really, as long as it's no trouble."
"Not at all, sir," Frank says. Inspector Toro is still looking around uncomfortably. When Frank returns, Inspector Toro awkwardly accepts his drink.
"Would you...like to sit?" Inspector Toro asks.
"I don't mean to be rude, sir," Frank says. "But are you unfamiliar with valets?"
"No, it's just – " Inspector Toro sighs. "You're not just a valet, Frank, don't think I don't notice the way you are with Mr. Way, how you do half the investigation."
Frank would normally have been flattered, but in this case he just demurred, because while Inspector Toro's observations might have been accurate if he had come to speak with them on any of Gerard's previous cases, it was so far from the truth in this instance that Frank could almost feel the burn of keeping his composure tearing at his chest.
"Let me check and see if Mr. Way is available to see you now, sir." Frank excuses himself and finds Gerard is leaning, quite obviously, all the way out of his office, as though trying to eavesdrop.
"He's disconcerted, isn't he? I think you timed it just right, he should have seen William leaving just as he was arriving."
"And that's good, sir?"
"Yes!" Gerard exclaims. "Send him in, and then come back in five minutes."
"Yes, sir," Frank says.
When Frank returns after the agreed upon five minutes, he sees that Inspector Toro is quite agitated and standing, leaning close over Gerard's desk while Gerard is all but ignoring him for a case file spread out over his desk.
"Did you talk to Ashlee?" Inspector Toro is asking.
"No," Gerard says, still not looking up from his papers.
"Mr. Saporta? Mr. Urie?"
"I spoke to Mr. Urie the day after the murder. And there's nothing criminal about Mr. Saporta."
"Except that he is connected to all the powerful daylighters who do business with Pete...."
"It does not concern me."
"What does concern you?" Inspector Toro all but shouts. "What about Mr. Vaughn Stump? His movements have been especially suspicious lately."
Frank has to admit Inspector Toro has a point, and even though Frank knows that Gerard is protecting Mr. Urie out of some loyalty Frank didn't quite understand, and that most of Mr. Vaughn Stump's suspicious moments were likely times when he was meeting with Gerard, from Inspector Toro's point of view – and Frank's as well - Gerard does seem to be almost uninvolved in the investigation to the point of uselessness.
"At least tell me why Mr. Beckett was here."
"We were just having a pleasant conversation about swamp-scaping."
"He looked completely enraged when he left!" Inspector Toro stood up in obvious frustration. "When you see fit to fill me in on your investigations, I do hope you'll call and save me the time of traveling here and having an entire pot of coffee so that I can keep your strange hours."
Inspector Toro storms out, Frank following him but the door still slamming.
"What was that all – " Frank says, returning to Gerard's office, wondering why Gerard had decided to deliberately enrage Inspector Toro, wondering if it was a tactic to get Inspector Toro to back off with Gerard having to answer any of his questions. Is there some way Inspector Toro is going to lead someone astray with the case? Frank can't guess any reason that makes sense. "Sir?" Frank says after a moment when he sees that Gerard is no longer in the room.
Frank looks around and ahead, down the hall, he sees Gerard disappearing into the greenhouse, the burst of sunlight only barely concealed by the sun curtain. Frank shields his eyes but he still feels it, the bright flash of yellow, and he's dazed for a moment, standing there, bereft, without sight, or a master to tend to, or to answer any of his questions.
Gerard emerges several hours later, just past sunset, and grabs Frank's sleeve as soon as he finds him and hurries them toward the door.
"Your coat, sir," Frank says, because Gerard is all the way out the door.
"Yes, yes, of course," Gerard says, and allows Frank to slide his coat onto his shoulders, and for Frank to grab his own.
"Where are we going, sir?"
"To Mr. Urie's," Gerard says, like it's obvious.
"Shouldn't we be taking the carriage?"
Gerard shakes his head. "I feel like a walk," he says, though he's already breathing a little heavily from the pace.
"Of course, sir."
The effort Gerard is exerting to keep his pace makes talking almost impossible, though Frank does ask if something is wrong, and why they're going to see Mr. Urie so abruptly, but Gerard only huffs out,
"Need to talk to Jon."
Suddenly Frank catches something out of the corner of his eye. He yanks Gerard close and whispers, "I believe we're being followed, sir."
Gerard stiffens, and looks around. "You're sure?" Gerard says, but suddenly Frank isn't so sure, because the person – or, well, the billiard table - he saw out of the corner of his eye has disappeared.
"Stay here a moment, sir," Frank says, and then jogs quickly in a wide circle around where he thought he saw whatever it was. He returns to find Gerard looking concerned.
"I...must have been mistaken," Frank says, but he's sure he wasn't.
"Well, it won't hurt to hurry," Gerard says, and takes off again.
Frank stands outside the room, next to Brendon, while Gerard is interviewing Mr. Walker, and, it turns out, Mr. Smith. Brendon seems at a loss without Spencer, or at a loss entirely, and Frank doesn't know where he keeps his tea service, his water, his kitchen, but he's considering exploring just so he can give Brendon some solace in the form of valet service.
"Is there," Frank starts and Brendon looks up. "Sir, is there..." Brendon looks at him blankly, and the fact that it takes Brendon a moment to transform his face into the flirty, wolfish grin tells Frank even more about how unsettled he is. Still, the grin is powerful, and distracting.
"Hi," Brendon says, and Frank can't really ignore the electricity.
"Hi," Frank says, and then after a moment too long, he adds, "Sir."
"I'm sorry," Frank says, and he feels strangely shy under Brendon's gaze.
"It's ok, it's instinct. That's an interesting word in our community, isn't it?" Brendon asks, with a kind of distant consideration. "We embrace our instincts, but we also adjust according to them." Brendon was talking like he was part of the community, like he was a midnighter – in a way Frank had yet to hear him use. Frank understood something about the pull of Brendon – he didn't read like an outsider for all the effort he put into blending into the daylighter community. Frank had known all along, without realizing, that Brendon was one of them.
"Sit," Brendon says, "It's not an order, just, you make me nervous, like I need to have something for you to do."
"And you can't think of anything?" Frank says. Brendon's eyes flash with delight, and then he smiles, breaking the moment's intensity. Frank sits.
"Are you nervous about what Gerard's talking to Mr. Walker about?" Frank asks. "I must admit I have no idea what it's about, but - but if I had a secret, and I'm not saying you do, sir - but he's kind of a bad liar."
"Oh, he's terrible, I can't tell him anything," Brendon says. "And I do have secrets, but it's not that I'm worried," he says dismissively. "Not with Gerard." And that's another thing that surprises Frank about Brendon. Everyone gets nervous when Gerard starts asking questions, whether or not they have anything to hide. "It's just –" Brendon says. "I know he's asking about Ryan and it's - "
"What makes you sure he's asking about Mr. Ross?"
"Everyone is always asking about Ryan," Brendon says. "That's just one of his powers."
"Is he your sire?" Frank asks. Brendon turns and stares. "I'm sorry," Frank says. "I don't know if you're – what - " he stutters, and starts to stand but Brendon's hand is on his knee, and Frank sits back down.
"What made you ask that?" Brendon says, entirely curious and not accusatory. His fingers are still on Frank's knee.
"You just talk about him like – people sometimes talk about their sires, before the Clan Act. A mix of attachment and resentment. You talk about him like – something happened that changed your life."
"I'm not a vampire," Brendon says quietly. "It would be hard on my daylighter business." But Frank understands that Brendon also isn't directly answering his question. He knows something happened to Brendon, and Ryan's involved, and not knowing what makes him uncomfortable.
Gerard lets the door creak open and Brendon's hand drops from Frank's knee. Frank knows that Gerard has seen it. Gerard scans Frank's face, then Brendon's, but doesn't say a thing.
"I need to talk to Brendon," Gerard says, as Frank stands. Gerard's expression is fixed in a frown. "Can you go out and get us some mandrake root from the market?" Gerard asks.
Frank nods, grabs his cloak and goes out the door, looking over his shoulder for Gerard's smile, just before he leaves. It's how he knows everything is ok. Gerard's expression would be different, more closed, if something was wrong. Frank can't shake the idea of Ross somehow lurking in the shadows. Frank walks up the street, passing the four silhouettes in Brendon's living room window. It's only when he gets to the store that he realizes that if Jon Walker was really a house spirit, he should not have had a shadow.
From the House Spirit Handbook
Is there a polite and quiet individual who came with your house but who insists he is not a part of your servant staff?
Did you receive a strangely dressed individual as gift from your family when you've come of age?
Is someone who you were always told was a cousin now trying to serve you all of your meals?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this book is for you.
You probably have acquired the devotion of house spirit, who, despite his designation, does not actually come attached to a building. House spirits attach themselves to households, most often familial lines, but a house spirit can learn to accept and serve any members of a household or social group. Or, in circumstances where they no longer needed by a family, the house spirit's service may be transferred along with the sale of property.
The billiard table is most certainly following them home. Frank whispers as much to Gerard, who does not turn around to look, which they both know would ruin whatever element of surprise they have. Gerard only watches Frank's face for a signal, and just when the billiard table makes a sweep at them, Frank tells Gerard to duck. They both go down in tandem, Frank's fingers scraping the ground. The billiard table hovers for a moment and then soars off, down the road. Frank helps Gerard up, dusting him off.
"Should we pursue?" Frank asks.
"Of course," Gerard says. "That billiard table just tried to knock us over. I plan to have words with it." Gerard looks positively overjoyed as he and Frank take off running down the street, Frank's hand on Gerard's elbow, speeding him along.
The billiard table makes a couple of startled attempts to knock them over again, but each time, they manage to get down before it can hit them, and it seems distracted by its attempt to reach its destination. Which, Frank realizes as they're approaching, looks alarmingly familiar.
"The Salpeter mansion," Frank says as they skid to a halt in front of it. The billiard table slides through the front door on its side.
Gerard looks deeply offended. He throws his arms open wide, like he did in his standoff with the piano. "Could I please speak with the billiard table?"
"Do you think this is about Pete – "
But Gerard is shaking his head. "Unfinished business," Gerard says confidently. "Is the piano at least available?" Gerard calls out. The door remains tightly closed. "Ok, fine, I'll just tell the whole house, then," Gerard says. "You're not cursed. You're not haunted objects. You're not possessed. The poor grandfather clock was sacrificed to perpetuate a scam."
"Shhhh!" Greta Salpeter steps out onto the stairs, closing the door gently behind her. "Stop, you'll give me away to the whole neighborhood."
Frank gapes at her. "It was you all along? But you hired Gerard!"
"I believe she was trying to attract a sorcerer. One in particular."
"Oh, don't say it like that, like I can't get a date. I was trying to get his attention so he'd take me on as an apprentice."
"Schechter?" Frank says, catching up. "You hired Gerard to get Schechter's attention?"
"And it almost worked!" Greta says and then deflates. "What gave me away?"
Gerard takes a moment to ponder. "I was suspicious that your piano was out of tune," he says after a moment. "It seemed unlike you, and neither haunting nor possession should affect the tuning of an instrument."
"I haven't managed that much control over my object animation yet," Greta says, sounding frustrated. "And the billiard table was just too much?"
"There was no way a haunted billiard table would be capable of moderately stealthy tracking," Gerard says, a little apologetic.
Greta sighs. "I was hoping he'd be with you tonight. I thought he'd finally come to investigate if it seemed like there was a strong enough curse....Sorry," Greta says to Frank. "The table didn't actually hit you, did it?"
Frank shakes his head.
"Will you at least put in a good word for me with him?" Greta pleads.
Gerard nods. "I will, but as interesting as the case was, I don't like being tricked."
"I think you do, actually," Greta says with an enigmatic smile. "As long as you figure out the trick." And with that, she closes the door.
"Quite interesting," Gerard says, a few times in a row, as they turn again toward home. Frank can tell Gerard is going over the Salpeter case again in his head. Their walk home is now much more relaxed without a billiard table lurking in the shadows. Gerard also seems greatly cheered by the encounter with Greta.
"What did you find out from Bren – from Mr. Urie?" Frank asks, after Gerard seems to come out of his contemplation.
"Just a few more pieces of the puzzle," Gerard says, and stops and smiles at Frank, something sparkling in his eyes. This is the Gerard on a case that Frank is so familiar with, the mind working a hundred paces ahead of everyone, the threads coming together, the end in sight.
"You've almost solved the case, haven't you?" Frank says, caught up in the way Gerard is looking at him.
"Almost," Gerard says, conspiratorially. "Almost."
His eyes are still shining when they arrive back at the Way Mansion, and he practically does a little dance when they find on the front door an elaborately wrapped package which he seems to identify immediately.
"Frankie, I have been waiting for this for months!" Gerard says, his eyes bright. "Get me a knife," he says.
Frank does, thinking it can't possibly be something for a case because from Gerard's reaction, it has to be a plant.
Gerard's plant orders are often both something out of the ordinary and something alarmingly unusual. Plants from all over the world, supernatural plants that Gerard is teaching to talk, or recognize patterns, or bloom according to the mood of the person in front of them. Frank thinks that the plant world is another mystery Gerard feels compelled to solve; he understands how people work, or at least how they commit and hide crimes, and so he needs something else to study, diagnose and solve. Frank wonders if it is that the plants wait for him when the cases don't.
"Oooh, I'd better open it in the greenhouse, it's chilly out here," Gerard says just as he's taking off the outer wrapping for the plant. Frank follows Gerard, picking up discarded pieces of cloth as he goes.
"Isn't Schechter insisting on inspecting all plants for curses before - " Frank says hesitantly but Gerard interrupts him.
"Oh, whatever, just because there was that one with the poison darts, not everything I get is dangerous or possibly cursed."
Frank wants to point out the flaw in that statement has something to do with the "not everything" but Gerard is barreling through the greenhouse door, the plant cradled in his arm, and Frank stops as the door closes, shutting Gerard in. Frank waits at the door, wondering whether Gerard has forgotten that Frank isn't allowed in there. A moment later, Gerard reappears, the plant no longer in his hands but apparently perched on a table just behind Gerard.
"I'm so sorry, Frankie," Gerard says in a quiet voice. "I was so excited about the plant and I wasn't really thinking. . . ."
"It's fine, sir," Frank says, though Gerard still looks devastated. "You can tell me about the plant when you're through examining it. I could bring you something to drink and leave it at the door."
"No," Gerard says. "Frank, please," and Gerard is clearly struggling to say something, and Frank watches his face, watches his hands flutter around like he can grab the words, thinking, no, he never would have killed Pete, no matter what he thought was happening to Mikey. It was incomprehensible, Frank never really believed it, can't believe he'd let himself think it. Whatever happened, whatever weird thing is going on, it isn't a dark secret Gerard is keeping, it has to be something else. "I know - I know things have been weird," Gerard says, as though reading Frank's mind, as though he's known all along how this has all seemed off, scary and dangerously wrong. "I haven't meant - I never wanted - "
"It's ok, sir," Frank says, and he means it. Gerard doesn't have to finish his sentence. Frank's already forgiven him. Gerard seems to read something more into that simple answer, seems to know, and stops, and breathes, and just looks at Frank.
"Come in, Frank," Gerard says. It's an invitation, not a command, but it's also a peace offering. "It's more than several hours until daylight, and I'll be in here with you all the time. If anything happens, break the door, it'll be fine. Come in to the greenhouse with me."
"Of course," Frank says, and he steps across the threshold of the door.
It's warm at night in the greenhouse because some of the plants are tropical, and Frank takes off his jacket so that he's just wearing his t-shirt as Gerard does the same. Frank takes off his shoes and socks, and asks Gerard, "Will I be ok in my bare feet?"
Gerard's eyes fall on Frank's feet, like Gerard hasn't quite heard him, and then he says, "Yes, of course," and hurries off down the long path of tables and plants. The greenhouse smells like dirt - like earth - and fragrant flowering plants that Frank couldn't name if he tried. The stars sparkle overhead, high and bright, and Frank almost forgets there's a ceiling between them, because the glass is so clear.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Gerard says, having returned to Frank's side with a small potted plant with large stalks and small flowers, in his hand. "It's like we could be anywhere, floating in the middle of the sky. It doesn't feel like indoors, but it doesn't feel like outdoors, and it's beautiful in here day or night." Gerard is looking up at the stars, and Frank thinks the thing that's most beautiful is Gerard.
Oh, he knows he's not supposed to think that, spends so many hours a day reminding himself that all thoughts of Gerard should be as master. But he's in the greenhouse and his skin is warm and almost damp, and the stars are bright points of light in the sky and Gerard is standing next to him, relaxed, and smiling, a rare thing during this case, and Frank is just going to stop worrying, just for a few minutes.
"I wanted to show you this," Gerard says, lifting up the plant in his hands. "I got it in the delivery yesterday, I think it's the rare sample of the Amplector Vine that I wanted. And I know what you're thinking," Gerard says, and Frank hopes he does, because Schechter was out for the day and it means that he hadn't been here to receive the delivery and hadn't checked over the plant. "But I checked and there are no tiny darts so Brian's just going to have to calm himself. Anyway, what was I going to do, leave it out in the cold? It's from Argentina, it would have frozen overnight!"
Gerard strokes the plant's pot and Frank smiles. "It's kind of funny looking."
"It is!" Gerard said, delighted. "The Amplector Vine is rumored to have the power to incite compulsions. It twines around you and takes you in. It's one of the main ingredients in successful love potions."
"Do love potions really exist?"
"Supposedly," Gerard says with a spark in his eyes. Gerard strokes the pot again and the plant gives a shiver and spits a dust of red pollen all over Gerard.
Gerard coughs, and Frank immediately takes the plant away, sets it down on the nearest table, and begins wiping at Gerard's pollen-dusted face and hair with a handkerchief.
Gerard's eyes go dark as Frank leans close. "Uh," Gerard says shakily.
"Are you ok, sir?" Frank asks, worried, because Gerard is starting to tremble under his hands.
"I'm fine, I just," Gerard says, his eyes falling closed and he tilts his head up toward Frank's hand. Frank wipes away what he can find of the pollen, over Gerard's eyebrows. "It spit at me."
"Here, just tilt your head like this, sir," Frank says, and Gerard kind of gasps as Frank moves the handkerchief over his arm. It's- it's something else, but Frank is forcing himself to think of the job, of himself as Gerard's valet, providing this. . . service. Cleaning pollen, mystery pollen, that's all he is doing and Gerard's expression of pained restraint isn't something Frank is supposed to notice.
"Frank. Frankie." Gerard's small voice makes Frank's skin tingle. "It's the plant."
"Yes, sir, it appears to have attempted to pollinate with you." Frank bends to dust some of the pollen off Gerard's cuff, his fingers catching the skin inside Gerard's wrist. Gerard hisses.
Frank jumps back. "Is it painful? Does it sting?"
"No, Frankie, no, it's - " Gerard takes a deep breath in. "The plant. I think the rumors are – I feel – taken in."
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't under - " Frank says, but then he understands perfectly well, because Gerard is grabbing him tightly by the shoulders and kissing him hard. Gerard is frenzied, his hands won't stay still, they're in Frank's hair, across his back, on his waist, pushing him against one of the greenhouse tables. Several pots clatter and smash on the floor as Gerard presses Frank back against the table.
"Uh, is this," Gerard asks, brokenly grasping for words. "Is this - do you want - "Gerard stops to lick Frank's neck.
"God, yes," Frank says, pulling at Gerard's shoulders. If he were thinking straight, without the distraction of Gerard pushing his shirt up over his head, he'd think that maybe this wasn't such a good idea, with Gerard under the influence of some strange sort of plant drug. Or that Gerard in fact ought to be giving some sort of lecture about the problematic power dynamics of valets like he always does when he asks Frank to bring him something but is sure to tell Frank that he doesn't have to.
But Gerard seems to have no such reservations about stripping his valet naked and Frank thinks he might actually die if he doesn't do this, especially the way things have been, and with the hope Frank has grasped onto with Gerard's revelation that the end of the case was near. Frank would not be stupid enough to stop Gerard, hands now splayed on either side of Frank's head as Gerard climbs entirely on top of him, pressing Frank's back into the cold table, the thrust of Gerard's hips sending a ferny plant's branches swaying back and forth, brushing across Frank's forehead. "Frankie," Gerard whispers against Frank's throat and Frank arches his back, looking up at the stars.
They track dirt and plant leaves and pollen through the hallway, up the stairs, into Gerard's bedroom, though they don't quite make it to the bed until later. Frank idly thinks about having to clean all of it up in the morning, but then he's kissing Gerard's spine and getting his arms tangled with Gerard's as they wrestle with each other and gravity. Frank falls asleep draped over Gerard's chest, his feet twisted in the quilt and too limp and exhausted to be confused by the strange feel of a bed and not a coffin.
Frank's internal clock is way off, because when he wakes, he's sure it's mid-morning. Gerard startles awake and then grins, pulling Frank in for a kiss before either of them says anything. Kissing takes on a life of its own and Frank remembers several things that beds do that coffins do not, and Gerard treats Frank's body like any good case, investigating it from every angle, sometimes with such excruciatingly slow attention that Frank is bold enough to call him a tease.
"Sir," he says, when Gerard protests. "A tease, sir," and Gerard laughs into the crook of Frank's elbow.
They both stir when they hear a thundering sound of footsteps up the stairs. Schechter bursts in to Gerard's bedroom before Frank can really even gather the sheets to cover himself. "What the fucking hell!" Schechter shouts, gesturing at them. "The place is a mess when I get back, neither valet nor master anywhere to be found, dirt all over the place, what the hell was I supposed to think!" Schechter shouts.
"Uh," Gerard says, at a loss.
"I mean, this," he gestures wildly at the two of them in bed, "This is none of my business. Well, actually, it's entirely my business but I'm going to pretend I didn't see it so it doesn't have to be my business. Also," he says, and suddenly both Gerard and Frank notice at the same time that Schechter is holding the plant.
"Be careful!" Gerard chokes out. "That plant - "
"Yes, this plant," Schechter says, which he's shaking a little vigorously. "This plant, which you let in without having me check it over, and now there are mice all over the patio."
"Mice?" Frank says hesitantly.
"Yes, mice, with little ears and little tails and loud squeaks." Frank and Gerard both stare at him. "They want the plant! It's like a drug for them. They can smell it for miles."
"Are they in love with it?" Gerard asks in a small voice.
Schechter stares at him. "No," he says slowly. "It's just a particularly aromatic grain." There's a pause and then it's as though Schechter takes in the scene. "You thought it was the Amplector vine, not the Adoris grain, didn't you? I told you not to send for that." Gerard shakes his head gently but Schechter's not buying it. "You thought it was the Amplector vine, and it must have released the pollen and you - Frank, did he make you do this?" Everything in the room is suddenly awkward.
"Uh, no," Frank says and wishes he could really hide under the covers.
"It was just - I thought I was - " Gerard sighs, "You're sure there was no chance there was any compulsory - "
Frank wishes there was a way he could push past Schechter out the door, but he really needs his clothes.
"Even if it had been Amplector," Schechter says, "It doesn't work on humans."
"Oh," Gerard says, and looks at his hands. Frank hadn't thought he could feel worse, but that small, confused sound from Gerard actually hurts.
"We'll talk about this later," Schechter says. "I need to go get something to scare away the mice. Wish I could just show them how the house looks downstairs and threaten to make them clean it up. Do me a favor and leave me a goddamn note next time so I don't think you've been attacked by a gardener." Schechter turns abruptly and leaves, slamming the door behind him.
Now that you're a midnighter, don't sniff these plants!
It's a common daylighter habit, to sniff flowering plants in order to enjoy their fragrance or identify them. However, certain plants you may have sniffed while a daylighter may pose serious risks to your new midnighter form.
Chamomile flower: If you are any form of sea or water-habitat midnighter, chamomile flower has a powerful, instantaneous body-temperature lowering effect. A common ingredient in some teas, it can be deadly if ingested by any water-creature. (Please see the Tea Preferences of Various Creatures of the Night, An Addendum to The Valet's Guide for further information.)
Amplector vine: Exposure to this plant's pollen will result in immediate and overwhelming and uncontrollable sexual desire. This plant does not affect humans.
Irises: Though not fatal, the iris blossom can result in an allergic reaction in any midnighter with heightened sense of smell. If you keep irises in your home or garden, keep a corresponding stock of allergy remedies.
Frank slips on his pants and then looks up at Gerard, who is fiddling with turning his shirt right-side out again. "Let me - " Frank says, and then stops, just as he was about to reach out for Gerard's shirt.
Gerard looks away. "It wasn't –" he says, and Frank braces himself for the letdown. Or possibly getting fired. "It wasn't compulsory," Gerard says. He looks up at Frank, as though hoping he can get away with saying as little as possible.
"It's fine, sir," Frank says. "The plant, of course, confused - "
"No," Gerard says loudly, dropping his shirt and coming to stand right in Frank's space. "I wanted to," Gerard says, his hand resting gently on Frank's face, his thumb brushing over Frank's cheek. "I wanted to, Frankie," Gerard whispers, and they're so close, they're just about to kiss, when a commotion downstairs startles them apart.
"Get down here," Schechter's disembodied voice echoes through the house. Frank helps Gerard on with his shirt and then quickly puts on his own.
Mr. Vaughn Stump comes barreling through the back door, and Frank's rushing up to him, offering to take his coat, even though it's entirely improper for him to be entering through the servant entrance. Mr. Vaughn Stump is panting, out of breath.
"Patrick, it's happening, isn't it?" Gerard says, breathless. "It's too early, we're not ready."
"He's on his way," Mr. Vaughn Stump says. "Where's Mikey?"
"Lock him in his room. See if Schechter can hold a forcefield for longer than he did that time - "
"I will not be locked in my room," Mikey interrupts, appearing on the stairs. "Frank, don't you even try," Mikey says, when Gerard turns to Frank and gives him a pleading look. "I know what's going on and I want to help."
"You don't know," Gerard says, sounding desperate. "You don't even know the half of it." Frank wants very much to tell Mikey that he isn't alone, and to tell Gerard that it is up to him to explain if no one else understands, it is time he finally explain it for them.
"The person who killed Pete is on his way, isn't he?" Mikey says.
"Bob Bryar's on his way?" Frank says while Gerard is shouting for Schechter.
"Bob Bryar didn't kill Pete," Mr. Vaughn Stump says, looking at Gerard. "You can tell him now," Mr. Vaughn Stump says. Frank stares at Mr. Vaughn Stump, and then at Gerard. "Tell them both."
"You - " Frank says, thinking all of his worst fears are going to come true.
"I'm sorry, Frankie," Gerard says, apologizing before he even explains.
"You didn't - "
"No," Mr. Vaughn Stump says, understanding what Frank's thinking before Gerard does. "Gerard didn't kill Pete either."
"No one killed me," declares a voice at the top of the stairs. Frank can't process it, but Pete Wentz is standing at the top of the stairs, wearing a pair of Gerard's pants and Mikey's t-shirt. Mikey makes a choked sound. "I faked my death," Pete says. "I'm sorry," he says, quietly, to Mikey, who stares at him. "So when you saw me, it wasn't a ghost. I couldn't really stay in Decaydance, there were too many people who might find out and we didn't know who we could trust. I've been hiding here sometimes, when Brendon's place was compromised."
"Compromised," Frank says. He's still not sure Pete's actually real.
"When Mr. Walker was there," Gerard says and Frank still doesn't understand. The Valet's Guide did not have any advice for this situation.
Mikey says to Pete, "That's my shirt."
At least the abundance of laundry that Frank had been sure two Way brothers could not produce is starting to make sense.
"But I don't understand why you faked your death." Frank says, feeling like he is the only one who still isn't seeing the whole picture. Mikey is slowly making his way up the stairs to stand closer to Pete, as though he could manage it without his brother noticing.
"There were some things I needed to see play out," Pete says cryptically. "Some things I needed to see to really believe."
The back door opens again and Bob Bryar comes flying in with Inspector Toro just behind him. "I lost him. I looked everywhere, he was following me and then he - wasn't - "
"Will you stop running! I'm not going to arrest you until you explain who was following us," Inspector Toro shouts, bending over for a minute to catch his breath. When he stands, he looks right up at Pete, and then turns to Bob and says, "So I guess I'm not arresting you at all, am I?"
Bob shrugs. "If you really feel the need, we can work something out."
"But I don't understand – " Inspector Toro scans the room, and looks at Pete again.
"Has anyone checked the roof?" Pete asks.
"Come on, we'll go," Mr. Vaughn Stump says to Inspector Toro. "I'll explain on the way," and they go tearing off up the stairs.
Something is on the tip of Frank's tongue and tumbling out before he can stop it. "You didn't trust me," he says, grabbing Gerard's sleeve. Gerard's face falls. Frank's not angry, that's not it, he's just - he's just so terribly sad.
"I couldn't tell you," Gerard says. "I couldn't even tell Mikey."
"I thought you'd - " Frank says. "I knew you were keeping secrets and I kept catching you in lies and the only thing I could think was - I didn't understand, but it was you, I would have helped you, I would have - "
Frank stops, because he realizes Bob Bryar is standing just behind him.
"Forbidding him to tell you almost broke the deal," Bob says. "He said he couldn't keep that kind of secret from you and I thought - I thought he meant he was a bad liar."
"He usually is," Frank says, and then adds, "Sorry, sir."
"But now I understand," Bob says. "He wasn't talking about his skill at lying."
"I'm sorry," Gerard says, and holds his hand out for Frank. Frank hesitates in taking it because Frank's still trying to sort out the truth.
"Even in the greenhouse, you couldn't have told me then?" Frank asks. Gerard looks contrite.
"Look, I don't mean to break what is obviously a very complicated and emotional moment," Bob says, "But we have to assume he's going to show up here. We have to assume it's only a matter of minutes before he could storm the door. We assume it was Jon Walker who discovered that Pete's not dead, and he might just be on his way here to try and do it once and for all."
"Brendon's house spirit can't kill us, can he?" Frank asks.
"He's not a house spirit," Gerard says.
"There's no reason to think he's alone," Bob continues, "I've summoned the Order but I don't know if they can get here in time."
"It's too late," Schechter says, and then his arms are up and Frank feels the static charge of magic. Schechter starts to glow and Frank hears Pete and Patrick in the background, coming back down the stairs.
"Cool," Mikey says. Pete tries to order Mikey to his room.
"Who is it?" Frank hisses. Gerard is standing right next to him, and Frank wants to wrap Gerard in a hug, pull him protectively close. Gerard is tense, almost shaking, but he's wearing this determined expression that makes Frank think he's been waiting for this moment since before the case even began. "Who is it?"
"I'm sorry," Gerard says again. "When I met with Patrick, right before Pete's murder - "
"Pete had a plan. To catch – this person. But who is it?"
"Ryan," Gerard says.
And Frank sees Ryan Ross step in from behind the sunlight curtain, a cross bow in his hands. He fires an arrow up the stairs the second he's visible, but it goes wide, over Pete's shoulder. The second shot hits Schechter in the leg.
"You little punk," Schechter shouts and falls down, the static of magic stuttering out.
"Get Pete out of here," Bob shouts, and Patrick runs for Pete like he's going to tackle him, but Pete dashes down the stairs, past him.
"Ryan," Pete says, his arms spread wide, "Let's talk this out."
"I can't believe you fooled me," Ryan says, and his voice is cold. He's looking at no one but Pete, but when Mikey makes a run for Ryan, he shoots another arrow, barely missing Mikey's shoulder. "I'm faster than you, remember?" he says to Mikey, who has ducked down on the ground. "Vampires are faster than humans."
"So let's let the humans go, then," Pete says.
"Everyone's a witness now. If I'm going to kill you, everyone's going to know. So I either turn them or kill them."
"Are you even kidding me?" Bob shouts. "Do you think you have a chance of even getting out of here, Ross? It's only a matter of making sure you don't hurt anyone until the Order gets here."
"They'll come for you," Ryan says. "You broke the sacred order. I put out a contract, and you took it upon yourself to nullify the contract."
Bob laughs, and it creeps Frank out. "It wasn't me, Ross. I don't have that kind of power. But someone else does. The judgment's going to be harsh. You issued a contract without equity - you are not Pete Wentz's peer, and you had to know we'd question your motives."
"So you went to Patrick," Ryan says. Schechter, the arrow still sticking obscenely out of his leg, sneaks behind Mikey and pulls him into Schechter's office. Ryan shoots an arrow at the door, but Schechter and Mikey are already inside. "That's a violation of Order confidentiality." Ryan says, like Mikey's escape didn't just happen, sounding like a know-it-all.
"I wanted to break you right away," Bob says, "But Pete wanted to see what you'd do when he was dead, to see if it was some sort of misunderstanding."
"It wasn't," Ryan says.
"That much is clear," Pete says and now he's the one who sounds dangerous. "Let everyone go, Ryan. You're alone here."
"If you'd just listened," Ryan says, frustrated. "You know I'm right. You know the daylighters aren't ever going to treat us like equals. You're killing yourself to work with them when they'd just as easily stake you when your back was turned - "
"I thought that was your style," a new voice says, and Ryan freezes. Brendon Urie is in the door, with a collection of masked individuals behind him, as well as Spencer, and Jon. Not a single one of them has a weapon in his hand but Frank knows immediately who they are and why Ryan suddenly looks frightened.
"You could have told me you were in the Blind Order," Ryan says.
"And all you would have done is use it against me," Brendon says. "Anyway, you're the one who got me in, technically." Frank watches as Ryan's eyes go to Jon. "Nothing like waking up and finding out my boyfriend has used me to bind a demon."
"That's not how it was," Ryan says.
"You did it without my permission," Brendon says, his voice tense. "You did it because you thought midnighters were allowed to have power over daylighters. You did it so you could make me a midnighter. You made me your peer. Which is why I'm allowed to judge you," Brendon says.
"You tried to kill me to make a grab for power," Pete says. "That's not how we do things in this community."
The Order closes in around Ryan. Mr. Vaughn Stump and Inspector Toro come rushing in and Inspector Toro freezes, staring wide-eyed at the Order. Pete and Gerard charge for Mikey at the same time but Ryan reaches out and fires the crossbow wildly, a desperate last act. Frank's moving before he has time to think about. He's not sure if he's diving in front of Gerard or Pete, only that the Ryan must not hurt either of them. He feels the arrow connect with his chest, feels himself falling but never seeming to land. He sees the Order closing around Ryan and then Gerard's face, blurry, looming over him.
"It's ok," Frank says, "It's fine, really," he says.
"Frank," Gerard says, panicked, and there's fog, the room's spinning, and he feels heavy, so heavy. He feels the floor under him, and then air, like he's being lifted, his limbs dangling, limp, his head lolling back and images fly by, he can't tell what's real, Mikey's room, Dewees, his tie collection, the Way mansion upside down, the greenhouse, Gerard's mouth against his.
He feels like he can't breathe and it feels like just before he was turned, this familiar, close to death's door feeling and he just has to reach out. He lifts his hand and expects to feel clouds, light, something ethereal, something to mark the passage into the next place. Instead, he feels someone's skin under his hands, someone's shoulder, the ribs of someone's chest.
"Frank," a voice whispers. "Drink."
"No," Frank murmurs, because even though he doesn't know what's happening, he knows this isn't right. He shouldn't drink anything that's this warm, that's this fresh, that's this powerful. He hears the thundering of someone's heart. There are voices all around him, shuffling bodies, indistinct shouts. He can't understand any of it, except one word.
"Drink," the voice urges him. Gerard's voice. Gerard's blood. Gerard's heart.
Frank's protest stutters into a gasp when he feels the blood on his tongue, when he feels himself surrender to instinct. This is who he is. This is what he does. He drinks. He takes life. He takes life in return for his own, and he's had enough blood to understand what's happening. Gerard is attempting the Trading.
He tries to pull himself away, pull back. "No," he tries to say, but his voice isn't working. He can smell blood. He wants more.
"Frankie, don't stop," Gerard says, and his voice is distinctly weaker. "You haven't had enough. Ryan's arrow - you'll die." He can feel it, too, can feel the damage to his body, can feel the hunger, his own weakness.
"You'll die," he tries to say, but Gerard is cradling his head, pressing Frank's mouth back to the knife wound just above Gerard's heart. This time, Frank doesn't resist. He drinks, Gerard's hands in his hair, Gerard's thumb stroking his cheek, Gerard's pulse growing weaker.
He shoves Gerard away as a blinding pain overtakes him. He's either dying or being healed, he can't tell, he doesn't care, as long as Gerard is still alive. Frank tries to reach out for Gerard, as if by just touching him he can know, but before he can find out, before he knows anything one way or another, he feels himself being lifted into a coffin, the lid being secured, and then he closes his eyes in the darkness, hoping that if Gerard is dead, that he doesn't ever wake up.
Gerard's list of dangerous foods, from Frank's notebook
Sauces and Seasonings:
Bearnaise Sauce, Bordelaise Sauce, Brown Sauce, Caper Butter, Chinese Brown Sauce, Chutney, Cumberland Sauce, Hollandaise, Horseradish Sauce, Sauce Mousseline, Sauce Provencal, Spicy Cherry Sauce, Sweet And Sour Sauce, Tangy Cranberry Sauce, Tartar Sauce
Herbs and Spices:
Allspice , Basil, Bay Leaf, Caraway, Cardamom, Cayenne Pepper, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Juniper, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Grass, Licorice, Mint, Mustard, Nutmeg, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper, Star Anise, Sumac, Szechwan Pepper, Tamarind, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric, Vanilla, Wasabi
Frank hears the murmur of voices, feels his coffin lid being lifted, feels a hand pressing down against his chest, holding him there. "Don't get up," Pete says. "Here," and then a bag of blood is being pressed to his mouth. Frank drinks until he can just open his eyes, and then he struggles to sit up. "Not yet," Pete says, and Frank feels Pete's fingers explore the wound on his chest.
Frank's still in incredible pain, but he has to know - he has to - "Gerard?" he gasps out. Pete pulls his hand away from Frank's chest.
"Shhh," Pete says and then the coffin lid is being lowered over him again.
Frank wakes up to the sound of nothing. It's dark, and he doesn't realize why until he reaches out and lifts the lid of his coffin. The candles are low in his room. No one's around. He finds he can sit up, but getting out of the coffin is another matter. He doesn't seem to have any strength, any coordination at all. He falls as soon as his feet hit the ground, sees the bloodstain on the carpet, and stays there, squeezing his eyes shut, trying not to panic. If he can just get downstairs, just see Gerard....
He keeps a good grip on the railing until the landing on the second floor, where he stumbles. He's expecting to fall all the way down, momentum carrying him bumping down all the steps but someone stops him.
Frank gets wrenched up, held up against someone's side with an arm around his waist. "Easy there," Bob says. "No need to cause yourself further injury, you look bad enough as it is."
"Thanks," Frank says. "I just needed to - Is Gerard - "
"Downstairs," is all Bob says. Bob doesn't let go until Frank leans his weight against Bob and they walk down the stairs like that, Bob stopping when Frank fumbles a step.
"That was some fancy life-saving you did," Bob says once they reach the first floor landing.
"I - " Frank says and then he stops. "Yeah, I guess."
"Brave," Bob says, though Frank doesn't respond, because he sees Gerard, head propped up against pillows, covered in a blanket on the chair. Frank twists away from Bob's support, runs for him, forgetting he can barely stand on his own. Someone else stops him from falling just a few feet away from Gerard - Inspector Toro hauls Frank up and sets him down in the chair.
"Take it easy," Inspector Toro says.
Gerard stirs awake.
"Frankie," he says weakly, though his smile is huge. Relief floods through Frank and he smiles back, their eyes locked.
"How's Schechter?" Inspector Toro asks as though continuing a conversation that Frank has interrupted. It's so familiar that Frank wants to laugh, but only manages a weak rasp.
"Pissed off that he's going to be walking with crutches for the next few weeks," Gerard says. "He's also talking about taking on an apprentice. He's been grumbling since it all went down that he should have better control over his magic and he thinks teaching someone else will help."
"Never thought I'd see the day," Frank says. "The reluctant sorcerer embraces his destiny."
"I fucking heard that," Schechter's voice echoes through the house.
Mikey appears with a tray of coffee. Frank tries to stand up but Inspector Toro shoves him back down, and Mikey just gives him a look. "I'm training to be a valet," Mikey says with such a straight face that Frank might believe him if it wasn't for the smirk that comes a minute later.
"How do you take your coffee, sir?" Mikey asks.
"Victoria said no caffeine yet," Bob interrupts.
"It's decaf," Mikey whispers, and Frank hears but Gerard doesn't seem to. He takes a sip and instantly looks more refreshed. Bob and Ray take their seats and so does Mikey, until they're sitting in a circle, like a gentlemen's club, drinking their coffee like they did this every day.
"What happened to Ryan?" Frank asks into the silence.
Bob and Ray exchange a look and then Gerard says, "It's ok, Bob, he's not going to report any of this to the daylighters."
"As far as they're concerned, this while was a stunt Pete pulled before unveiling the new Clan code addendum about post-death legalities."
"And Ryan – " Frank asks.
Bob takes a moment to consider, looking at Ray carefully before he turns to Frank and says, "Brendon's taken him. They're going into seclusion."
"They?" Frank says.
"Brendon, and Spencer, and Jon and Ryan. Ryan's gotten very lost. They have some things to work out."
"I expect they do," Gerard says quietly.
"I trust Brendon," Bob says, "And Pete's going to look in on them." At Frank's skeptical look, Bob says, "Pete knows what he's doing. The kid successfully faked his own death just to see what Ryan would do."
"And he feels responsible," Mikey adds.
"Is he here?" Frank asks. "I thought he came in and fed me - "
"Yeah," Mikey says. "He's sleeping."
"In your bed?" Gerard asks with his eyebrows raised.
"So," Inspector Toro says, breaking the silence. "I'm going to go get working on my report of Pete's 'stunt.'" It's been a pleasure working with you," he says to Gerard, and they shake. "All of you," Ray says, shaking Bob's hand last. "I hope to do it again soon," Inspector Toro says, "though with less mortal peril next time."
Gerard laughs until it turns into harsh, rasping coughs, and Mikey tries to give him water, which he waves off.
"You should both be sleeping," Mikey says.
"I want to go to the greenhouse," Gerard coughs. "It's the full moon tonight and the Wolfsheart only blooms – "
"Fine," Mikey says, though his expression is tender. "Bob can take you and I'll bring Frank up - "
"No, I want to show Frank," he says, and Frank feels Gerard's eyes on him. He looks up into Gerard's face and nods. "We need to talk some things out."
It's awkward in the greenhouse, because Frank notices the first place Gerard looks is the same place he's looking, at the table where they were so recently acting in a manner not appropriate for a master and valet.
Frank watches Gerard, and wonders if he's remembering it the way Frank is, wonders if he regrets it, if he's embarrassed, if Frank's about to be on the receiving end of an apology or a dismissal.
"It's beautiful out here," Frank says. The full moon's light is making the plants sparkle, the Wolfsheart blooms luminescent.
"So – " Gerard starts and then stops. "I'm assuming that you're going to tell me you're quitting?"
"That was – not what I was going to say," Frank says, startled.
"Oh," Gerard says. They both look at the table. "So, we should probably - "
"Tell me about Brendon," Frank says quickly, trying to stop whatever is coming out of Gerard's mouth, "After – the thing happened, with Ryan." Gerard's eyes flash over to Frank, and Gerard looks sad.
"The Clan office he went to called me. Once we knew he couldn't separate himself from Jon, we had to – adjust him to the midnighter community. I mean, not that he didn't know a little bit about things, he was dating a vampire, but it's a remarkably unusual case to have a daylighter bound to a demon and survive. Ryan was frighteningly strong with the magic, and - I don't think he had any idea that Ryan was really capable of something like that. I'm not even sure Ryan thought he was really capable of it."
"So, Jon's never been a house spirit," Frank says.
"Demon binding is permanent, as far as anyone knows, and Brendon had to find a way to pass Jon off as something more socially acceptable. Brendon's done an amazing job of moving on with his life, but sometimes when I look at him, and I think about what he had done to him – It's not the worst of any of the things I've ever investigated, but it's -"
"You worry about Mikey?"
"Yeah," Gerard says softly. "Though also just because I'm his brother. I worry about all of us. I know we're all supposed to trust each other, in this community, this place Pete's built for all of us, but - "
"It's all right," Frank says quietly.
"It's not, though!" Gerard says. "I knew it had to be a secret, and if I'd told you, if I'd let anything slip, you could have gotten hurt - and then you went and jumped in front of an arrow!"
Another coughing fit stops Gerard from continuing for a moment. Frank tries to speak but Gerard just holds up his hand for Frank to wait. "And we hadn't even talked about what happened here," Gerard says, and they both look at the table again. Gerard reaches to pick up a broken piece of a terra cotta planter that was a victim in their earlier activities.
"There's nothing to talk about," Frank says. Bizarrely and much to Frank's disappointment, there's nothing at all in the Valet's Guide about sleeping with your boss, especially not about what to do when it was in such seemingly accidental and confusing circumstances. But Frank knows if there was, it would advise him to let the subject drop at the earliest opportunity.
"Frankie," Gerard says, and he's suddenly up close, his hands cupping Frank's face. "This wasn't really the way I wanted you to find out."
"About Pete?" Frank asks.
"About how you've become – about how you're -" Gerard can't seem to finish the sentiment.
"I thought maybe - " Frank says, but Gerard interrupts him.
"Whatever you thought," Gerard says. "It wasn't – it's not – you have no idea - " Gerard leans forward and kisses him, insistent at first, and then gentle and slow. Frank can't find the words to protest the inappropriateness, or how he can't ask this of Gerard, his master, and so he kisses back, his apprehension meaningless compared to the movement of Gerard's mouth against his. Suddenly, Frank's hit by the stark, plain realization that Gerard could have died trying to save him. He pulls back with a gasp.
"The Trading. You shouldn't have," Frank says. "There's a reason it's illegal. And using it on your valet, the most ridiculous - "
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. You're not just my valet," Gerard says, his forehead practically pressed against Frank's.
"The Trading could have killed you." Frank can't take his eyes from Gerard's face.
"But it didn't," Gerard says. "It saved you," he says, like its all that matters. A werewolf howls. "Show off," Gerard says, and Frank laughs. "So," Gerard says.
"So," Frank says. "That's quite a few secrets you've been keeping."
Gerard shrugs, but then he says, very seriously, "Yes."
"So, is there anything else you are not telling me?" Frank says, and he means it to be a joke, but Gerard just stares at him, eyes shifty, and frowns.