Actions

Work Header

I Was Your Silver Lining

Work Text:

Believe in the believers of never ending love

 

The whole street is dark when Gerard returns home. No one is awake to see him drop the heavy old carpetbag on the porch and dig out his keys. He's relieved to finally be back on familiar grounds, but wouldn't go so far as to say he's glad to be home.

The stairs creak as he climbs up them and a cloud of dust flies up when he drops onto the bed. He sighs and kicks off his shoes. The house is silent around him, stifled, seemingly uninterested in the fact that he's returned to disturb the quiet. He flicks at a tiny spider that crawls through a knot in the headboard and then shuffles underneath the musty sheets, his jeans still on.

Gerard lies back and waits, waits for sleep, but he isn't sure whether or not he should hope for dreams.

"I think - I think she might know."

"Don't be so paranoid, Gee."

"I saw her looking at us."

"Well if I wasn't doing this, what was there to see?"

Gerard wakes up far earlier than necessary, but his bladder is full and his stomach is empty. So is the fridge, but he knows there should be a loaf of bread and some coffee beans in the freezer, and that's enough to lever him out of bed.

The water from the kitchen faucet sputters a little when he turns it on but still tastes fine, if a little metallic. He methodically rinses out his old cracked coffee mug and uses it to fill up the coffee maker, carefully measuring up to the line and then staring at it sleepily as it gurgles away. He should clean the house today. Wipe everything down. There's still sheets over most of the furniture and he's pretty sure he saw some of the eaves in the back crumbling. He should probably get to them before too long - the coffee gurgles, then slows, and he pours himself a steaming cup and frowns into it. Milk, he should turn on the fridge and get milk, too. And sugar.

He'll go to the store later. For now, lack of additives won't prevent him from enjoying this cup, or the next. He breathes it in and stares out the window; they've painted the house across the street, and the fence has finally been fixed down the block, so maybe the Wilson's dog Zeke won't get out anymore.

There's a small group of kids dressed in uniforms, some with backpacks as big as they are. Gerard hums into his coffee, curious to see what the Academy lets their students get away with as far as dress code violations. Frankly, he's surprised that the tallest one hasn't been forced to cut his hair. The little one still has his tie wrapped around his wrist and-

Gerard's mug falls from his hand.

***

"Dude, no, you'll have to come with me when I go check out guitars. There's this seriously sweet Gibson that I think I can convince my parents to swing for me for Christmas," Ray says, reshouldering his heavy backpack as they make their way down the street.

"Sure, man. Tomorrow? I promised my mom I'd help her with some shit after school."

"Yeah, yeah, no problem. You ready for Wilson's exam later? If I see another fact about the sinking of the Spanish Armada I'm going to puke."

Frank sighs and twists his tie tighter around his hand. "Fucking tell me about it, man. I stayed up till -" There's a loud noise, then, from the other side of the street and they all freeze on the spot. There's a guy standing on the front steps of his house, barefoot but dressed in old jeans and a half-buttoned shirt.

"Holy shit," Bob says.

"Yeah," Ray agrees.

"What? I thought you guys said no one lived in that house," Frank says glancing between his friends and the weird guy on the porch.

"No, he was gone," Ray corrects.

"He just does that sometimes."

"You also said he was like Boo Radley or whatever, that he hardly ever came outside or talked to the neighbors," Frank hisses at them. He can feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.

"He doesn't!" Ray insists.

"How about we keep going?" Bob suggests.

"Yeah, okay." Frank tears his eyes away from the guy. He thought he'd be like a cranky old man. Like Ed Asner or something, or that guy on Everybody Loves Raymond, not like, twenty-five with muppet hair. Weird.

***

Frank doesn't know him. Frank doesn't know him. Gerard can't move. He stands on the porch and watches them half-run down the street and his feet are freezing but he can't even feel it, can't feel anything except the rolling wave of sickness inside. There's still a screaming part of him telling him to run after Frank, stop him, stop him from going away, but that look on Frank's face told him everything he needed to know. Frank doesn't know him.

That's not how it's supposed to be, this can't be right. How can Frank not know him, not remember him? Gerard has been waiting and now he's found him and....Frank looked young, but still so obviously Frank and Gerard had always figured that all he'd have to do is wait, and he'd find Frank again and Frank would know and they could pick up where they left off.

But now he's just as alone as he was when he went to bed last night, just with one less coffee cup.

The cold finally seeping into his bones is the only thing that snaps him out of it and sends him stumbling backwards towards the front door. He should go inside. Wipe down the counters. Plug in the fridge. The Academy gets out when, two o'clock? Three? Frank will come back this way. Gerard can wait.

A few hours is nothing, in the scheme of things.

***

"I think I passed, but it wasn't pretty," Frank sighs. He kicks at a rock by the edge of the path so it goes tripping into the grass.

"That's all that matters," Bob offers.

"Yeah, you tell that to my mom, dude. At least she can't ground me preemptively, so at least I'll have til Monday?" Frank would have preferred his bright side be a little brighter.

"Oh shit, the hermit is outside again," Ray says, jerking his head casually to the other side of the street. It would be much more subtle if his hair didn't magnify every move of his head.

"Do you think he went inside at all?" Bob asks.

"He has shoes on," Frank says, trying to see as much as possible without it looking like he's staring.

The hermit, though, doesn't seem to care about being caught staring because he's not even trying to pretend to be doing anything else.

They speed up their steps as they pass by but Frank can't help but dart a look to the side. The second they make eye contact Frank feels a cold chill of something pinch at his heart. Jesus, the guy's not staring at them, he's staring at Frank. Frank jerks forward and hurries to keep up with Bob and Ray, keeping his eyes to the pavement the entire time.

*
"Are you sure you don't want to come with me? There's going to be a lot of free food and I think Renee is going to be there helping her aunt," his mom says as she moves quickly through the kitchen. "Have you seen the plastic utensils?"

"They're already in the bag," Frank says, twirling a little on the barstool. "And I'm good, I'm just going to chill here. I'm kind of tired."

"Stayed up late studying for that test? How did that go?" she asks, pausing in her packing to look up at Frank.

Frank hooks his feet around the rungs of the stool. "Uhm, I think it went okay."

"Okay-okay or okay?"

"…Okay-okay."

His mom sighs. "Frank, if you need a tutor to catch up, you just need to let me know, okay? I know that last hospital visit really set you back –"

"I'm fine, ma. You're going to be late," Frank says, ducking his head a little.

His mom pushes the strap of the bag over her shoulder and comes around to wrap Frank up in a hug and press a kiss to the top of his head. "Alright, I'm out. There's money for you to get a movie or something on the island. Don't stay out late and call me if you need anything, alright? I shouldn't be back too late but the church number is still on the fridge."

Frank doesn't hug back exactly, but he leans in and rests his head on her shoulder until she pulls away. "Have fun, ma."

He putzes around for a few minutes after his mom leaves and makes himself a grilled cheese sandwich on the stove. If he doesn't get any of the new releases, Frank might be able to get two movies with the money his mom left. He tosses the last of the crust into his mouth and grabs his hoodie off the chair before heading out the door.

Frank pauses once he's around the block to stop and light up a cigarette. He inhales slowly and chances a look up at creepy hermit's house. There's a single light on up in one of the top rooms but other than that it looks exactly the same as it has since Frank and his mom moved into the neighborhood a few years ago, busted eaves and warped porch and all. Weird. He shoves his lighter back in his jeans pocket and heads back towards the video store a couple of blocks over.

He grinds the butt of his cigarette into the stripmall's sidewalk before heading into the store. The last thing he needs is to run into Mrs. Bryar, or worse, Mrs. Toro while he's smoking. It's pretty crowded inside, since it's a Friday and all, but Frank ducks through the lines of people at the new releases wall and heads straight to the horror section. He and Bob had watched Evil Dead last Saturday; maybe Frank could grab Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Someone else is in the aisle though, blocking Frank's access to the beginning of the alphabet.

"Hey dude, can I?" Frank asks, gesturing at the tiny bit of free space.

The guy stands up, but he doesn't move. He's just staring at Frank. For the third time that day.

Frank's getting a little creeped out by Hermit Guy. Okay, he's getting hugely creeped out by Hermit Guy. Does he even know how to blink? He tries not to show it, though, and just silently shuffles past him the best he can without making eye contact. Jesus. He's still staring at him. He grabs the DVDs off the shelf and moves to scoot quickly down the aisle when –

"Do you like horror movies?" the guy asks, taking an almost abortive step towards Frank. He's clutching an old VHS rental to his chest. It's a weirdly dramatic move but the guy doesn't even seem to notice.

"Uh. Yeah," Frank says, turning back towards him slightly.

"Have you – have you seen those before?" The guy says, darting a look down to the DVDs in Frank's hands.

Frank shifts slightly from foot to foot. "Not yet. I finally saw the first one last week."

"They're excellent."

Excellent. Who the fuck says 'excellent' about a Bruce Campbell movie?
"So, uh," Frank asks, "what are you getting?"

The guy shrugs. "I wanted to get Dog Soldiers, but they don't have it."

Frank furrowed his brow, "They don't? Dude, it's like, right there."

"I know, but they only have it on DVD."

"Oh." Frank didn't know there were people that didn't answer to grandma or grandpa that only had a VHS any more. "Uh, maybe try Ginger Snaps? Or The Howling?"

"Have you seen them?" Hermit Guy asks, with a weirdly hopeful look in his eyes.

"Yeah, they're pretty cool. There are about five thousand Howling movies, so it might be a good series to start if you haven't seen them before."

"Yes, well. I will – uhm, be sure to do that, then," Hermit Guy says, and then sort of flushes and stares at the wall of movies.

He's much less intimidating when he's not staring directly at Frank. Frank sort of feels bad for him, suddenly. He obviously doesn't get out much.

"Okay, well, yeah. I'm gonna go. But I'll see you around, or something," he says, moving away from Hermit Guy and towards the front of the store.

"Bye, Frank," he says quietly, still staring at the rack of faded horror tapes.

Frank gives him a little nod before scooting in the line to check out. It's not until hours later, curled up on the couch watching Ash rev up his chainsaw, that he realizes that he never told Hermit Guy his name.

*

When Frank wakes up the next morning things seem muted, groggy. Fuck. He pushes up from the bed to breathe deeply and he can feel it, there, inside his chest. He's going to get sick again. Fuck. Every fucking time he gets over something, something else comes around to knock him on his ass.

He groans and flops back down on the bed, but all he gets out of it is a resounding cough.
*

"Mom?" he calls out as he slowly walks down the stairs. No answer. "Ma?"

She's out, apparently. There's a note on the kitchen table (lunch with friends) but the house is cold, like she's been gone a long time. He pops bread in the toaster while he meanders back through the house to his mom's bathroom where the meds are. Might as well cut it off while it's still early.

Two Tylenol, one Mucinex and the biggest glass of orange juice he can stand later, Frank crawls back into bed. He can't really sleep more, between the coughing and the fact that he'd already slept for eleven hours, so he grabs a few comic books from under his bed. His whole head is fuzzy, between the cold and the pills, so Hellboy and Abe Sapien are blurry on the page and the speech bubbles seem like more effort than Frank has to spend.

He must fall asleep at some point because when he wakes his mom is creeping into his room with some Gatorade and crackers. "Hey," he says, before his body convulses in another coughing fit.

She sits down on the bed, moving Frank's comic books out of the way and opening the bottle of Gatorade. Frank takes it from her as soon as he's sure he won't choke on it, and tries not to notice the worried press of her lips as she rests the back of her hand against his forehead. "Have you taken anything yet?"

Frank nods. "Yeah, but I could probably take more Tylenol soon."

"Sure, honey. How about food, do you want some soup?"

"Soup'd be good." Frank nods, trying to smile for his mom.

His mom disappears down the hallway towards the kitchen again and Frank shifts in his bed, unable to find a position that doesn't seem to close off his chest. He fucking hates how they've got this down to a routine by now. Other kids don't have to have this shit down to a routine by now. But he hasn't died yet, so he guesses he should be thankful.

***
It's been four days since Gerard's seen Frank. Four days. He hasn't come out of his house and Gerard should know, since he's been boring holes into it with his eyeballs ever since he figured out which one was his. Not unless he figured out a new way to get to school that doesn't involve leaving his house.

Gerard sips at his cold coffee and blanches a little. Oh right. It's from the pot from last night. He swirls it around in the cup slightly before sipping again. He presses his face closer to the front window, barely peeking out around the curtains. Where could he be?

Finally, after a few more cups of cold, bitter coffee, there's movement from Frank's house. Gerard clutches at the drapes and shirks back out of view as someone comes out of the front door. It's – it's not Frank. It must be his mom. She looks about a mom's age. Tired, too. Gerard knows the look.

Something's Wrong. Something's wrong with Frank, because that's the only reason his mother would be looking like that, and Frank would hole up where Gerard can't see him. It's killing Gerard, not to be able to see Frank. It hasn't even been a week since Gerard first saw Frank again, and already he's become dependent on seeing him even for a few minutes a day.

Gerard nearly wears a hole in the carpet pacing back and forth. There's nothing he can do about whatever's wrong, whatever is making Frank's mom chain smoke on the front porch. When she gets in the car and disappears down the street, Gerard considers going over to the house and trying to look in on Frank himself.

He frantically walks back and forth between the kitchen and front window, trying to figure out what the fuck to do. Finally, Gerard snaps. He can't let Frank disappear into that house. He's going to find him. He thunks the coffee cup down on the table with a determined motion and goes to grab his coat from the front closet.

He's halfway across the street to Frank's house when he sees Frank's mom's car round around the block. He considers making a break for it, hitting the front door full speed, darting in, finding Frank, whisking him away – but his stomach drops in fear and he stumbles a little and keeps walking, cutting the corner by Frank's house so it looks like he was planning to pass on by all along.

By the time he's made it around the corner he's gripping so tightly at the inside of his pockets he's sure he's made new holes.

He loiters behind a tree, watching as she lifts bags from the backseat. He could offer to help, that might get him inside, but he's wary of approaching her, even if - no maybe especially if - he could see Frank. Instead, he stays out of sight and tries to see through the semi-opaque bags to their contents. He can barely see sports drinks and an impressive collection of over the counter medications wedged in between basic items like food.

With that, Gerard can deduce what is keeping Frank locked away out of sight. It's just a bug of some kind. He's just sick. It's nothing like the flu that hit after the Great War, the one that knocked out half the eastern seaboard, or so it had felt some days. Now, Frank can take half of the pills in the pharmacy and be back on his feet in no time.

Gerard hopes it's no time. The past four days have felt almost as long as the past four decades.

***

By the sixth day Frank can roll out of bed without wanting to curl up in a little ball on the floor and vomit. Progress. His mom's back at work and he's well stocked with Gatorade and soup and the huge stack of homework Ray came by and dropped off that he has to make up. And also he's pretty well stocked with being bored out of his fucking mind. There are only so many times he can watch daytime TV without wanting to brain himself, and that passed about eleven sick spells ago.

Around one o'clock he hears the mailbox slam shut; it's a little early, but Frank's looking for any sort of distraction from trig, even if he has to work up the energy to walk all the way out to the front curb. His old house had a mail slot; all he'd have to do was get to the front door. Frank does actually remember to grab his coat before heading outside. His mom would be so proud.

Of course, halfway down the walkway he gets a little light-headed. It figures, since this is the furthest he's walked in one go in almost a week, so he speed shuffles to the mailbox and leans on it for a minute or two before opening it up.

There are no letters inside, just a wrinkly brown package. He pulls it out and turns it over a few times in his hands. It's weird, old paper, like the kind you'd get from a butcher instead of a mailroom. His name and address are scrawled on the front in a messy, looping scrawl, and when he rubs his thumb over it the black stains his thumb.

There's no return address on it and Frank knows he should probably be worried about mail bombs or anthrax or something but nobody ever sends him shit in the mail so he rips it open right there by the mailbox.

It's a scarf. He lets it dangle from his hands, and it's so long that it almost brushes the concrete of the sidewalk even when folded in half. It's made of some dark kind of wool, worn thin, and there are intricate little stitches woven in delicate designs around the edges and through the seams. He shakes it out a little in his hands to see if a note or letter or something falls out but there's nothing, just the scarf. He presses it against his face and inhales. It smells weird, and familiar, like something his grandma would keep in the attic of her house. Maybe it is from his grandma. She's always fretting that he's not dressing warm enough.

The wind picks up then, pushing leaves down the sidewalk, so Frank winds the scarf around his neck so it won't hit the ground and makes his way back into the house. There's a bowl of soup with his name on it, and more homework to make up.

***

Gerard barely has time to get back to his house before he hears the door slam down the street, and when he looks back, there's Frank, walking out to the mailbox. Every muscle in his body seems to relax at the exact same time, and he sags against the porch railing. It's all he can do to stay put when he sees Frank start to weave a bit. Why didn't he put it on the porch? Whose brilliant idea was it to make Frank walk all the way down to the curb?

The self berating stops when Frank opens the package and actually holds the scarf, and Gerard gets a sharp pang right under his ribcage when he sees Frank lift it to his face. He can't help but remember Frank's smile when Gerard gave it to him the first time.

Gerard tugs nervously at the scarf in his hands. God, what is he doing, Frank's going to hate it, this is so silly, he should just –

Frank steps out of the store and half-skips down the steps. Gerard considers pulling back into the darkness of the alley but Frank sees him, then, and smiles wide. So much for that.

"Hey, Gerard!" he says as he walks up. His cheeks are bright red from the cold and his hair is whipped all around his face. Gerard's stomach aches.

He blinks away from Frank's face and stares back at the fabric in his hands. "Hi, Frank. I, uhm, I was in the shop on my way back from holiday and I saw this, and –"

"Did you get me a present?" Frank says, the corners of his mouth pulled into a tight smile.

"It just, uhm, reminded me of you, and you said you lost your other scarf when you were riding last month, so," Gerard stumbles a bit. "I thought you might like another one."

"You shouldn't have."

"But I did."

"And I'm glad." Frank holds his hand out, palm up, and Gerard manages to stop clutching at the scarf long enough to jerk his hands out towards him and drop it into his hand. The long scarf spills over his palm and half of it drops to the dirt of the ground before he manages to use his other hand to gather it to his chest.

"Oh, no, I'm sorry-" Gerard says, embarrassed again by his own clumsy movements. Frank doesn't seem to mind, though, just dusts it off and wraps it around his neck and face, tucking the long ends into his coat. His mouth is covered, but Gerard can see the top of his smile as he looks at Gerard.

Gerard's pretty sure even his fingers feel warm, then, no matter how cold the wind blows.

 

***

Frank finally makes it back to school on Monday, and some sick, twisted part of him is actually kind of happy about it. There's only so much time he can spend by himself without going crazy.

"Hey, look who's back from the dead!" Ray cries, as Frank joins him and Bob on the sidewalk.

"I was only mostly dead," Frank says, bumping Ray with his backpack.

"At least you got a pass on the hospital this time," Bob says, nodding.

Frank lets his friends fill him in on what he missed as they walk to school, content to have people other than the TV and his mother.

In biology, Mr. Howard gives him a look like he's evaluating whether or not Frank was actually sick this past week or if Frank and his ma hightailed it down to Disneyworld. Frank pulls out his stack of homework and drops it on the corner of Howard's desk before slinking over to his lab table.

"Hey Frank, finally feeling better?"

Frank looks up, and Jenny Stevens is leaning across the lab table she shares with Sean McKenly. "Yeah, just, you know. The usual."

"If you need any notes from last week, I kept mine pretty neat if you want to copy them."

"Thanks, but I think I got most of them from Ray. He's got Howard third period."

"Well, if you want to compare, just let me know," she nudges her green notebook with her elbow and tucks a piece of black hair behind her ear.

"I will," Frank says, "thanks."

The bell rings then, and the last few students duck into the room.

"I like your scarf, by the way, very vintage," Jenny says before leaning back in her seat.

Biology is all blah blah enzymes blah blah reactions, but Frank manages to stay awake, if only because he feels like he's been asleep for the past week. It's a good thing, too, because Howard seems to feel the need to call on him all class period, as if he has a week's worth of missed questions to make up for.

Frank's ready to dash out the door once the bell rings, but Jenny calls after him again. "Hey, you live down on Harrison, right?"

"Uh, yeah," Frank nods.

"I'm staying with my dad this week. Mom's got some work conference in Dallas and he's over on Cherry," Jenny explains.

"Cool," Frank says. "Shorter walk than usual?"

"Yeah, um, maybe I'll see you on my way home," she smiles then, one side of her mouth lifting higher than the other and Frank finally clues in.

"Yeah! I mean, totally, you should walk with me, Ray and Bob. We'll get you home safe."

Her smile evens out then, and Frank's foot feels all jittery. "Cool, well, I'll see you later."

***

Frank's been walking some girl home all week. She's small and pretty and has embroidered patches tacked all over her backpack, and she and Frank both shoot each other these looks when the other one isn't watching. Gerard sees them, though. They make him feel sick. How is this even happening?

He paces from one end of the house to the other, picks up his abandoned coffee cup from its place on the counter and then abruptly slams it back down again before going to look back out the front window. They should be coming any minute now. Every day they walk home together and Frank walks with her past his house and then returns back and half-skips up the front steps of his house. They could just be friends, though. Frank's friendly. Just because –

Frank and the girl come around the corner and they're holding hands and Frank's got his side all pressed up against hers, and she's smiling. Oh, oh no.

Before he even realizes what he's doing he's halfway down the front steps and hopping the curb to cross over to their side of the street.

"Wait!" he says, louder than he probably should. "Stop!"

Oh god, what is he doing. Frank's looking at him and he looks nervous, and he's shielding that girl, the one that's been making him laugh all week, like Gerard would hurt her or something.

"What, dude?" Frank asks, standing up taller, pushing his shoulders back.

"You can't, uh. You shouldn't." Gerard wants to yell and rally at him, You're not supposed to be with her. That isn't how it's supposed to go. He wants to explain it all, the moon, Frank's mother, the gypsy. But he can't, not on the street, not with the girl watching them.

"Can't what?" Frank asks, even as the girl is pulling on Frank's hand, trying to lead him away from Gerard.

"Uh, if you liked Army of Darkness, you should get Bubba Ho-tep next time." It sounds stupid to Gerard, so he can't imagine what the two of them are thinking right now.

Frank shifts a little, but his guard isn't completely down. "Uh, okay. Thanks."

And then Frank and that girl are walking away from him, and Frank has his arm around her shoulder.

Gerard stumbles back up the steps to his house and slams the door behind him. This isn't how it's supposed to go. He half-staggers into the kitchen, desperate for something to distract him, but nothing comes to mind. This isn't how it's supposed to go.

"Such a sad face on such a young man," she tutts, lifting her cigarette to her mouth and sucking on it with stained, pinched lips. "I've never seen such sorrow in such young eyes."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Gerard glances to where Agatha and Henry are looking at the baubles hanging from the tent wall and chattering to each other.

"Of course you do. I can help you, you know."

"I doubt that."

She clucks again and grins, flashing crooked teeth. "You doubt a lot of things. But I know, I know what you don't doubt, I know you don't – you didn't – doubt him, how he felt, the things he said –"

He makes a move to leave then, unwilling to listen to her. She shoots out a hand and grabs his arm, though, yanking him back and scattering ash from the cigarette still pinched between her two fingers.

"Hey, you –"

"He'll come back to you, boy, he will. He'll be back. You just have to wait," she says, almost hushed.

He can feel the ash of her cigarette fleck off and burn the back of his hand, but he can't move away, can't look away from her eyes.

Gerard stands in his kitchen and runs his forefinger over the tiny, minuscule scar on the back of his hand. It's barely anything now, except a spot of shine. But he remembers the burn.

He picks up the coffee cup from the counter and squeezes it in his hands, like if he presses it hard enough it'll alleviate the weight in his chest clamping around his heart. It doesn't, just cracks under the pressure, and he slams the broken pieces into the sink with a cry. This isn't how it's supposed to go.

***

Frank can't believe it. He and Jenny are totally making out on her dad's couch and he's almost touched her boob like, three times and they haven't even been on an actual date yet. He owes weird Hermit Guy a fruit basket or something because adrenaline is an amazing thing. He didn't even have a chance to pop a breath mint and Jenny's just so soft and her hair smells really good.

Jenny breaks the kiss and sits up suddenly. "Oh shit, I think I hear my dad's car."

Frank blinks at her, his head still kind of spinning from the sudden shift away from awesome making out. "Huh?"

"You should probably go," Jenny says as she leans down to kiss him again. "I'll see you in class Monday, right?"

"Yes, definitely," Frank nods, grabbing his blazer off the arm of the sofa.

"Tommy Johnson is having a party next weekend, I think we should go," she says as she pushes him out the side door.

"Okay," Frank agrees, turning around so he can kiss her one last time. "And, uh - my birthday is next week, on Wednesday, and you should come over. Or - you know, whatever. Uhm. 'Night, Jenny."

She grins at him. "That sounds great. Goodnight, Frankie."

*

"Dude, okay, I see that shit-eating grin on your face. You and Jenny?" Ray asks the next morning on their way to school. "I know there's a reason you've been ditching us to walk her home."

"Yeah, man, sorry about that – but yeah. We totally made out yesterday."

"You're a regular Romeo," Bob drawls.

"Shut up, okay, it was totally romantic – creepy Hermit Guy came busting out of his house yesterday and practically chased us down so he could talk to me about horror movies. Freaky as shit but I totally protected her."

"Protected her, huh? From what? His terrible taste in movies?"

"Ha ha, laugh all you want, but I got an invite to Johnson's party next weekend."

"Up at his mom's place? I hear his step-dad owns some huge-ass mansion or something up there in the woods outside of town."

"Yeah, I think that's the one. It's going to be awesome," Frank says, practically skipping. Maybe he can protect Jenny from a bug or something and get to touch her boob.

"I thought you hated Tommy Johnson," Bob says, "because he's a huge stuck-up prick. And the outdoors. And most of the people in our grade."

"Yeah, well, I like Jenny," Frank half-mumbles. "So I don't care about the other stuff."

Ray just laughs at him. "Typical, dude."

"I also invited her over for my birthday, you know, movies and shit."

"If you two start making out during Land of the Dead I'm leaving," Bob states. "I don't care if it's your birthday or not."

The week passes quickly. Frank switches seats with his lab partner so he can sit a little closer to Jenny, and they switch off hanging out with each other's friends at lunch. Basically, it's the best week ever, especially when they get a chance to kiss by the lockers between classes. Ray and Bob egg him on a little, making fun of him, but whatever, Bob was the same way with Karen Wasserman back in freshman year, and Ray's been asking questions about Jenny's friend Natalie.

His birthday rolls around the next week and it kind of sucks that it's in the middle of the week and he has to go to school, but his mom makes him waffles with a candle in them and even though he groans and rolls his eyes it's pretty awesome. Jenny grabs his hand after lunch and drags him into the school's back alley for a thorough make-out session against the bricks and that's really awesome.

They break away for a second and Jenny smiles and tugs on his tie. Frank can't stop staring at her mouth. She's got a really awesome mouth.

"Happy birthday, Frankie," she says. Best birthday ever.

"You coming over tonight? It's just going to be me and Ray and Bob and some gory horror movies, but it should be kind of fun," he says, running his fingers over her waist.

"Yeah, definitely. What time?"

"Like six? Seven? We're getting pizza from Bianci's too."

"Okay," she says, and smiles and bites her lip.

"Okay. I'll see you then?"

She nods and the bell rings and they have to part to go to separate classes. He can barely concentrate in his next class. Not that he ever really cared about Advanced Trig before, but it needs to be that night now.

He's a little freaked about Jenny meeting his mom but it turns out pretty awesome - Jenny shows up about ten minutes before Ray and Bob and his mom actually manages to not be embarrassing and doesn't do anything like ruffle his hair or bring out naked baby pictures or anything. The pizza's awesome and has extra veggies and Ray seems to be wavering on selling Frank his old busted-up electric guitar.

They all end up curling up on the sofas and overstuffed chairs (except for his mom; she sneaks a smile at Jenny before she kisses his forehead and then goes to read in her bedroom) and watching awesome slasher movies. Jenny curls up against his side and runs her fingers along his forearm and even though Bob rolls his eyes at them Frank doesn't even care. It's the best birthday ever.

Afterward, when Ray and Bob have already left and it's just him and Jenny on the porch with the moths beating around the front light, he kisses her good-bye and it feels great.

"Hey, so, thanks for coming over," he says, pulling back. "I know it was kind of lame to come hang out with my mom, or whatever - "

"You kidding? Your mom's awesome. Thanks for inviting me over," she says, smiling. "Besides, Tommy's big party is this weekend and it'll be kind of like a blowout for you, too. Or you can just pretend like it is since he's kind of a dick."

Frank smiles. "Yeah, he kind of is."

They kiss again before she hop-skips down the steps and down the street. Frank watches until she disappears around the corner towards her dad's house and sighs. The porch light over at Hermit Guy's house is off but something seems to shudder by the window, like a small movement or a reflection on the glass. Frank freezes, waiting to see it again, but there's nothing. He slips back inside, flipping the porch light off behind him. Awesome birthday.

*

"So yeah, Tommy Johnson got the new Call of Duty game for Xbox and a bunch of us are just going to go over and hang out," Frank says to his mom. It's a good thing he's facing the sink and scrubbing the plates so she can't notice how he's especially fidgety.

"Mmhm, alright. That's Tommy, Eloise Johnson's son? Is she going to be there?" His mom says, idly flipping through the newspaper's coupon section. He can hear her gently ripping out pieces over his shoulder.

"Uh, I think so. If not his step-dad definitely will," Frank says. He pretty much doubts that there are going to be any parents within a two-mile radius of the party but the less she frets, the better.

"Okay then. Just make sure you call me if you're going to be really late."

"Yeah, ma, no problem." He smiles to himself and stacks more dishes in the drying rack.

His phone beeps then and when he checks his texts, there's one from Jenny. "Ride's here, bye Ma."

Frank grabs his hoodie and presses a kiss to his mom's cheek as he heads out the door.

"Have fun, Frankie!"

Jenny's car is idling out front, the light from the moon reflecting off the silver hood. Frank wonders if he could pull one of those slide across the hood of the car moves, but he doesn't want to kill himself before they even get to the party, so he walks around it to the passenger door.

"Hey," he says, slipping inside and pressing a quick kiss to her cheek.

"Hey," she says, pulling away from the curb. "Tonight's gonna be totally awesome."

"Awesome."

The party is only kind of awesome. Frank really likes the beer, but he only knows a few other people there beside Jenny, and she gets pulled away by some of her friends and Frank's left standing awkwardly by the cooler until Jason from his lit class says, "Hey, dude, we're gonna try my new pipe outside, wanna come with?"

Frank looks around to see if he sees Jenny, but ends up shrugging. "Sure."

He half-stumbles down the steps (apparently he really liked the beer) and follows the guys over to the edge of the woods. One of the other guys, Dan-or-Stan-or-something, is already packing Jason's pipe by the time he walks up and flops to the ground next to him. There's another guy he sort of knows from gym class named Steve next to him, working on a beer.

"Shit, dude, my lighter's out. You got one?" Jason says, flicking the Bic ineffectually.

"Nah, mine's back in the house. Hold on, I'll go –"

"It's cool, man, I got one," Frank says, fumbling in his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. He opens the crumbled packaging and pulls out the lighter, tossing it over.

Dan-or-Stan-or-something gives him a nod and tests the lighter before starting to light up. Frank kicks back the rest of his beer and crumples the thin metal a little in his hands while he waits.

It's been a while since Frank's gotten high (he's pretty broke most of the time and Bob gave it up, so he's been relying on Ray's good graces, and he's about as broke as Frank is) so he chokes a bit the first time it comes around. A couple more rounds, though, and he's half-slouched back on the ground feeling pretty awesome. He just feels so good all over.

Frank's willingness to keep holding himself up fades quickly and he ends up lying back, staring up at the sky. "The moon's so big."

"Harvest moon," Steve says, knowingly.

"I wish it always looked this big," Frank says. "It's dark out, but it isn't actually dark out. No moon sucks."

"Earth didn't always have a moon," Jason says, taking another hit off the pipe. "The science dudes think that some meteor hit Earth and a big piece flew off and became the moon."

"Huh." Frank vaguely remembers hearing something like that before. "Do you think Earth misses it? Like in that book, with the circle and the piece it was missing?"

"It was like a billion years ago, dude."

"Whatever," Frank shrugs, and reaches for the pipe.

"Dude, dude, did you hear that?" Steve asks, sitting up suddenly.

"Nope."

Frank lowers the pipe and exhales as quietly as he can so he can listen, too. And then he hears it, in the distance. There's a lone, low howl.

"Holy shit, dude, was that a wolf?" Dan-or-Stan asks, blinking at the woods.

"Nah, man, it's probably a coyote."

"Maybe it's a mountain lion," Steve slurrs.

"Mountain lions don't howl, shithead -" Jason says, rolling his eyes.

"How would you know, man, you ever meet a mountain lion?"

"No, have you?"

"No, but I wanna -"

"Everybody be quiet," Frank snaps. It's hard to hear anything with the noises of the party still filtering from the house behind them. The woods in front of them just look so fucking dark, though, and silent, like the world just ends on the other side of the trees. Like they'd swallow you whole. You'd probably step right through and fall off into the void like the edge of a map, like the old explorers and their flat Earth.

"Dude, Frank, where're you - where're you going?" Jason says.

Frank blinks and realizes he's already on his feet and halfway between the group and the tree line. "I wanna check it out."

Steve giggles and goes back to packing the bowl with the edge of the lighter. "You're crazy, man, fuckin' Dances With Mountain Lions -"

"It's not a fucking mountain lion, Jesus."

"You're gonna get fucking rabies or something," Jason says even as he gets up and follows after Frank.

"You can't get rabies from looking!" Frank insists.

It's a lot darker once they're actually in the trees with the half bare branches blocking out the moonlight. They can't even really hear the wolf anymore, but Frank still wants to see if he can find it.

The trees thin out a little, and Jason keeps looking over his shoulder to make sure they can find their way back. Something snaps on the other side of the small clearing and Frank jumps. Jason sounds like he's choking on his own breath."I thought all the wolves were in Canada."

The wolf is all black, or nearly so, and his fur is long and slightly matted, and he's staring at Frank and Jason. "It's a puppy!" Frank cries gleefully.

Jason just makes some strangled noise behind him, but whatever, Frank doesn't care at this point. He takes a step towards it and the thing freezes.

"That is not a fucking puppy, you idiot," Jason hisses. "We need to fucking go."

Whatever. Jason's just jealous because the wolf puppy thing obviously likes him. He really is fucking Dances With Wolf Puppy Things. Frank giggles. This is awesome. He takes another step towards it but stumbles on a tree root and ends up toppling to his knees. He giggles again. When he looks up the animal is closer to him now, only a few feet away.

"It's okay, I'm okay," he tells it, brushing off his dirty palms on his jeans. "I'm okay." It is obviously very concerned. He doesn't want it to worry.

The creature takes a few more steps towards him, slowly, its torso barely moving and its feet barely making a sound on the damp grass. It's inching closer, and closer, its eyes never leaving Frank's face. Frank smiles. It's so friendly. Frank always wanted a puppy but they don't really have the money right now but maybe he could just take it home and -

There's a squelching sound of shoes on mud as Jason takes off running towards the house. "Fuck you, man, seriously, fuck this-" and then he's gone into the woods.

Frank sighs. When he turns back around the puppy is like right there. Inches away. What did his dad always say about animals? You gotta let 'em know how you smell, right? Let them get used to you?

He raises his hand slowly (a little wobbly, but not too bad, or maybe the rest of him is too wobbly) and holds it a few inches away from the creature's face. The thing stops, pauses, and sniffs at him a little. They are totally gonna be friends. Frank raises his hand to pet the puppy's head but the thing just barrels into him, pressing its face into his chest until Frank topples backwards from the force. Damn, it's fucking strong.

Frank just laughs again.

"You're a big puppy, aren't you?"

The puppy just rubs his snout against Frank's chest, so Frank figures he's in the clear to scratch behind his ears and smush them down a bit. "You're a good boy, huh?" Frank says.

That gets a soft "wuf" in reply and Frank can't stop grinning.

"Do you want to play?" Frank asks and immediately the wolf is sitting back on Frank's legs. He's really heavy. "You have to get off my legs, first."

He complies immediately.

"Man, if I could get a dog as good as you, Mom would have to let us keep you," Frank says, pushing up onto his feet.

He's never actually had a dog, and therefore has had very limited experience playing with one, but Frank's always wanted to, and the wolf is bouncing on his paws in front of him, so they fall into a natural rhythm of play and chase that seems instinctive to both of them.

Frank rolls and pitches and the wolf thing follows, snapping at his heels and shoving its head into his side whenever he stops. He can't stop laughing, this is so awesome -

"Frank!" someone cries from the darkness of the woods. "Frank!"

Frank jerks in surprise and overbalances, falling to the ground mid-tumble. The wolf yelps and there's a sharp pain on his forearm and he hisses, rolling over to glance at it. He's bleeding. Fuck.

The pup is staring at him again, frozen to the spot. Staring at his arm.

"Aw, no, pup, it's okay, you didn't mean it -" he starts, rolling over to try and get to his feet again. "It's -"

"Frank!" The voices are closer now and he can hear footsteps. When he turns back the wolf is gone and he's alone in the clearing. He's weirdly disappointed.

"Frank, you crazy fuck!" Jason yells, finally tromping through the trees with a flashlight. A second later Jenny comes out of the darkness as well, her dark hair plastered to her pale face.

"Oh my God, are you okay?" she asks, running up to him.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he says, wiping his palms on his jeans. He feels stupid, now, looking at her worried face. She clutches at his arm a little.

"You're bleeding! Jesus. Jason told me about the thing, the wolf or whatever, did it attack you?"

"No, no, it was an accident -"

"An accident! Wolves don't just accidentally bite people, we need to get you back to the house, Johnson's family has got to have some first aid shit in a bathroom somewhere."

She links her hand in his and tugs him away back towards the house, but he can't help but dart a glance back to the clearing right before it disappears back into the darkness of the woods.

*

Gerard stumbles back into the house shortly after sunrise. He's exhausted and the stairs just seem like more effort than they're worth, even if his bed is up there. Instead, he staggers into the living room and falls onto the sofa, letting the familiar cushion and upholstery catch him. He's asleep again in a matter of minutes.

He wakes up again hours later. Gerard can't remember the last time he had a morning after like this, one that leaves him so drained. There's an omnipresent feeling of guilt - he did something he shouldn't have. He knows that the moment he wakes up, but it takes a minute for the vague memories to come back.

"Fuck," Gerard groans into the pillow. "Fuck fuck fuck."

He wouldn't have bitten Frank if those kids hadn't distracted Frank, and what was he even doing in the woods in the middle of the night? Gerard chose that area because there's usually no one around, or at least not anyone who wants to play with a wolf.

But once he'd smelled Frank, once he'd seen him, Gerard couldn't just leave. He had a hard enough time doing so as a human, and when he was changed he had even less control over his impulses. He certainly hadn't been expecting Frank to start playing with him. It was the most fun Gerard had had in years -- since Agatha moved out west, after Alicia passed just months after Mikey.

And that's why Gerard feels so guilty. Part of him is glad that Frank is like him again, that maybe Gerard won't have to be alone any longer, even if for only one day a month.

God, he's such a monster. Frank's obviously having a wonderful life with his wonderful girlfriend and wonderful friends, and apparently Gerard's only purpose is to drag him back down again. But he has to. They've always been stuck together, their lines crossed and tangled. Maybe this is how it's supposed to go.

He groans and rolls off the sofa, stumbling a little and knocking into the ottoman. He's been doing this fucking forever and it still feels like every joint in his body has been slammed with a brick. He stumbles into the kitchen and hits the coffee maker button before easing himself into one of the kitchen chairs, his head down on his folded arms.

He wants to go over to Frank's place right now and see him, smell him, see how he's doing. Maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe the bite wasn't enough, it wasn't that deep, maybe he wasn't infected, maybe he was, and again Gerard's stomach swoops at the possibilities of either.

***

When Frank finally rolls out of bed the next morning he feels like death warmed over. Death warmed over and then reheated in a microwave in tinfoil and then fucking freezer burned and roasted in the sun. He barely manages to get to the bathroom down the hall and get the lid of the toilet seat up before he's down on his knees, puking. Jesus, he didn't even fucking drink that much last night. Well, a little, but not this much.

His limbs feel kind of shaky and his eyeballs feel like they're rattling around in his skull and he swears he can feel the blood moving under his skin, like that time he had to go to the doctor and they hooked him up to that machine, like for plasma or something, and they took all the blood out and then put the blood and saline shit back in and it was cold and he could feel it, even though the nurse said it wouldn't last that long and he didn't believe her because it was the weirdest thing he'd ever felt in his life.

He wipes his mouth with the back of his hands and pulls himself to his feet, leaning heavily against the bathroom counter and glancing at the mirror. Fucking hell, he looks insane. His pupils are blown wide and his face is flushed and there's sweat staining the neck of his t-shirt.

"Frank?" His mom calls from the bottom of the stairs.

Frank hurriedly flushes the toilet and splashes water on his face before peeking out from around the doorframe. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. "Yeah?" He calls back.

"How was your night?" She asks, starting to come up the stairs. Oh god, Frank's still dressed in the same clothes he was last night and he smells like beer and pot and -

He shirks back behind the door and closes it so there's only a few inches before it's closed. "I'm not dressed, ma."

He can hear her pause. "Oh, alright then. You about to hop in the shower?"

"Yeah, yeah."

"I'm about to make breakfast. You want some pancakes or French toast?"

"Pancakes."

"Pancakes it is. I picked up another shift at work today so I have to go after lunch, but you'll be okay? You need a ride anywhere?"

"No, ma, I'm okay. I'm pretty tired. I'll probably just sleep."

"Okay then," she says, turning and walking back down the stairs.

Frank heaves out a breath and closes the door all the way, pressing his forehead to the wood.

*

When Monday comes, Frank is waiting on the steps for Ray and Bob to arrive. He wants to tell them about the party, and he couldn't do so satisfactorily over text, and he didn't want to risk his mom overhearing anything incriminating.

"Someone's up early," Bob says, shuffling up the walk.

"Just couldn't wait to see your smiling face, Bryar," Frank says, hopping down from the top step.

"No lasting pain from Friday?" Ray asks.

"Naw." Frank shrugs. "I mean, I got bit-"

"I didn't think Jenny was the type," Bob says as they head up the block.

"By a wolf, jackass."

"Bullshit."

"Dude, what the fuck ever, I wouldn't lie about that shit."

"Yes you would. What about that time you flipped your bike and told us you fucked up your face when you got into a fist fight at the bar – "

"Okay, that's –"

"You look like you're fourteen, dude, like hell you were ever in a bar – "

"Okay! Okay, okay, but this time it's totally true. Big fucking wolf, man, it was insane."

"Uh-huh."

"It bit me, too, but just a little. Jenny helped me patch it up," Frank says, rolling up his sleeve a little to show them the bandage. The cut had actually healed up surprisingly fast but he was keeping it on until he saw Jenny again. She did a good job and he wanted to make sure she knew he was grateful.

*

Gerard isn't done with his fit of self loathing by Monday afternoon when he heads out to the front porch to wait for Frank, but he'd been even more miserable the whole morning after he hadn't even gone to the window to watch him walk to school.

The mailman wheels his squeaking bag between each house while Gerard stares down the block, waiting for the first sign of Frank. Gerard nods down to him when he stops in front of Gerard's box and places something inside, but he doesn't bother retrieving it just yet. He's still more interested in the other end of the block. It seems like hours later when he sees groups of kids splitting off at the corner, but the mailman is only four houses down.

He taps his foot against the railing and listens as the DiMarillos' dog starts barking at the mailman. The dog will bark for the next five minutes as he approaches, stops at their house and then departs. Gerard takes a moment to be grateful that he doesn't have a leash to strain against as he tries to find a casual position to watch the street.

It's hard to stand around and look casual when he's pretty much on the verge of a panic attack, but he feels like he manages pretty okay. He should probably blink more but it's hard when he can finally see Frank making his way down the street towards him.

He smells different. Gerard can tell. It's not – it's not exactly the same, as before, way back before, but it's different than last week. Gerard tries to remember to breathe, that he actually has to exhale sometime.

Frank steps up over the curb of his block, and Gerard's making his way down the front steps towards his mailbox before he can stop himself. He stumbles a little on an uneven pavestone and Frank raises his head at the noise, his eyes widening at the sight of Gerard coming down his front path.

"Oh," he says, startled. Gerard knows he would have walked on the other side of the street if he'd been paying attention.

"Hi, Frank," Gerard says, trying desperately to keep his voice even. It's probably a little strained. Although Frank probably thinks he always talks like he's on the verge of an awkward attack, so maybe he can't tell.

Frank nods and makes to walk past him, speeding up a little, and it takes a lot for Gerard to hold back and grasp at the side of his mailbox instead of out at his jacket sleeve.

"How was your weekend?" he blurts. Pieces of paint flake off the mailbox against his grip.

Frank pauses and turns back a little. "Uh. It was fine."

"That's good, that's – that's great. You, ah – I heard there was something going around. You feeling okay?" Gerard asks. Fucking smooth.

"Uh, yeah. Fine, thanks?" Frank shifts his weight from foot to foot. It's suddenly very quiet. The DiMarillos' dog has stopped barking and Frank seems to feel the silence as much as Gerard does. "So you're uh, G. Way, huh?" he asks, nodding at the mailbox Gerard is clinging to.

"Gerard," he supplies immediately. He's giddy that he has the chance to talk to Frank, but also a little bit crushed that Frank still doesn't know his name. Nothing's changed except the way Frank smells and the fact that he'll be a little less human at the end of this month. Secretly, Gerard had been hoping that, somehow, being bitten would make Frank remember Gerard and the way it used to be.

"Cool, I'm Frank, but I guess one of the neighbors must have told you that?"

Gerard is going to dent the cheap aluminum box if he grips it any tighter. "Yeah, uh, the what's new in the neighborhood thing. Catching up. Your mother, she's Sophia, right?"

"No, Linda," Frank says. "I should probably get going, you know, homework. But it was nice to meet you."

"Yeah, you too," Gerard sighs as Frank starts to walk away. "If you ever run out of horror movies, I've got a pretty decent collection!"

Frank turns to face Gerard but keeps walking away. "Thanks man, but we broke our VCR player in the move."

Gerard watches him walk away until he disappears up the stairs and through the front door of his house. He waits until he sees the light of Frank's bedroom (or what he assumes is Frank's bedroom) come on and then lets out a low, steady breath.

He finally jerks his glance away from the window and back to his mailbox. He actually has a letter today, after all. Just hopefully not more bills. He pulls it out and runs his fingers over the heavy, textured envelope and smiles. Agatha.

He hurries back into the house and heads straight for his study, where the letter opener he picked up in Vienna is sitting atop the rest of his correspondence. It's old, but he keeps it sharp, so it slices easily through the heavy paper. Agatha's handwriting is still smooth and looping, despite the arthritis. She still forms the letters the way Gerard helped teach her back when she was in primary school.

Dear Gerard,

I'm absolutely thrilled to hear that you have found your Frank! I don't like to think about you all alone back there, and am glad you will have company once more. I know how relieved you must be after all of this time. I wish that I could meet him, see the two of you together, but I'm afraid traveling so far is out of the question for me these days, especially during this time of the year. Our winters are nothing like yours, out here, not nearly so harsh, but my bones seem determined to ache more out of habit.

I trust you will give him my best, and I know mom and dad would've loved to see him again, and I look forward to hearing more news. You two be sure to have a run for your old niece, I haven't made any trouble for the kids in years. Can you believe my baby is going to be sixty-three this year? And Jack is already in his seventies.

I'm just going on again about being old, I'm sorry, my letters don't contain as much excitement as yours, but I hope that never discourages you from writing. Alice sends her love, and suggests again that you look into email.

I also absolutely request some photographs of you two as soon as you get the chance - Alice reorganized the artwork in the hallway and I stole one of the prettier small frames when she wasn't looking. I can't think of better inhabitants.

All my love,
Agatha.

P.S. I really am happier for you than I can put down into words, Gerard. I knew you would finally find the happiness you deserve.

Gerard's stomach sinks as he reads Agatha's letter - surely not her intention, nor her fault, since he had not written her again after realizing that finding Frank wasn't the biggest challenge. He hadn't wanted to put down on paper that Frank didn't know him and still doesn't, really, but now he wishes he had, at least so that Agatha's letter might not have been so joyful for things that had not come to pass.

He misses her. He misses Mikey so much it aches sometimes, still, after all of these years. But at least when he writes to her he can feel a little bit of Mikey still there, still with her, and usually it helps.

Not today, though. Still alone, and now just feeling even more the fool. He sighs and pulls open the top drawer of the desk to pull out the top correspondence box and tuck the new letter safely inside with all the rest. He runs his fingers distractedly over the rough pieces of the paper where her ink pen carved into the teeth of the page. He should probably look into email, but this - something tangible, something created, something to remember - well, it feels like they're closer. And he misses having someone close.

He closes the box and puts it away, but reaches for another one. It's not as pretty as the first, but he was told it would keep out air and light that would damage these letters. They're notes, really; Gerard can't recall anyone having delivered them, except perhaps Mikey with a bemused glint in his eye that belied a disinterested facade. Gerard should have tried to learn from Mikey, to school his features more when he was around Frank in public, but it hurt not to smile at Frank, and he would have been bereft without the grins returned in kind.

Gerard frowns now, at the plain metal box, before lifting the lid. He doesn't even pick up any of the paper inside. He just looks at it. An exclamation point from a typewriter or an email could never convey what the stroke of Frank's pen had, all those years ago.

The pastor pounds his fist on his pulpit and cries out about evil. He's really angry about something in particular this week - dancing, maybe? Because of the dance down at the town hall the week before? He's probably angry because no one asked him to dance. Gerard just stares at his face and watches the bloated skin pucker and turn an angry red as he continues his sermon. It helps pass the time.

Mikey suddenly shoves his bony knee into the side of his thigh. Gerard resists the urge to punch him in the shoulder and just frowns and looks at him out of the corner of his eye. His mother is sitting right next to him and she hates when they act like they're not actually paying attention.

Mikey rolls his eyes a little and passes over something, something folded and tiny. Gerard tries not to breathe as he accepts the note and keeps it between his clasped hands, concentrating on the texture of the paper between his palms instead of the pastor's droning lecture.

There's no way he can look at it here, but he knows who sent it, and his heart twists a little - Frank's not in church today, and it's been killing Gerard not to look around every five minutes to see if he's sitting somewhere in the back.

The service finally ends and everyone stands to file out. Gerard tries to find a way out but there's already a huge crowd at the door shaking hands and talking with one another.

"I'm just going to go light a candle, Ma, I'll be right out," he says, extracting himself from their family's circle around the pastor at the entrance of the church. He ducks back inside to stand in the hidden area off to the side of the altar, by the prayer candles, and unfolds the note.

'Dearest G -

I know you are worried, but don't be - I'm fine. I fell while I was riding yesterday and hurt my leg (well, if we are being technical I was trying to stand up while riding, but that's neither here nor there), but it should be just as new in a few days. Until then, though, I'm forced to stay in bed completely bored and with absolutely nothing to do or no one to entertain me. My life is terrible, you see, and so boring without you around.

Mikey did his best, bless him, but my mother sent him away after only half an hour. Ever since Cousin Stella left the pack to marry that merchant over in Boston she's been a bit more...involved than usual. I think she's worried Mikey's habits will rub off on me - I think she heard the rumors about the town girl Ms. Simmons he danced with at the party. She can be so obsessed with the pack sometimes it's hard to have a conversation with her about anything else. I'm sorry to complain again.

Anyway, I have to finish this quickly, Mikey's stopping by on his way to meet you at Church and by the look of it he's already running rather late. I am going to tie this to a rock and throw it out of my window to him. Just like in those penny adventures we read, you see? I am quite the master of the art of stealth.

I probably won't be able to see you until the moon. I think a new pack from the town over is going to come over to run with us too. Won't that be nice? Even though I will still be faster. But don't tell them that. I think I finally hear Mikey. You should tell him thanks for me.

For now,
F

P.S. You really should have seen me stand up on that horse, G. It looked rather amazing. Well. Before I fell off.'

Gerard sighs and folds the note back up into its tiny and precise packaging. It looks almost like those Japanese paper folds Frank had shown him a picture of one time. He presses it to his mouth, just for a second, and goes to light a candle.

When he turns around Frank's mother, Sophia, is standing in one of the pews watching him, a stack of hymnals grasped firmly in her hands as if she was in mid-collection. Gerard forces himself to smile but doesn't allow himself to breathe until he's back outside, away from her and into the sun.

 

Gerard spends the next week falling back into his normal routine. The only difference between now and before he took his "sabbatical" is that he has an alarm clock that goes off so he remembers to leave his studio in time to watch Frank come home. He doesn't go outside, just stands in the kitchen and watches Frank and his friends and sometimes that girl go by as he washes paint brushes in the sink.

The next Wednesday he has to go into the city to drop off some of his latest pieces at the uptown gallery. It's always surreal to go back after he's been away for a while. The city's bigger- dirtier in some places, slicker in others. There always seem to be more and more taxis, though, and they always seem more and more determined to run him over as he tries to cross the street.

The gallery owners never care that he disappears, though, just that he comes back with new paintings eventually. They love the new works and fawn over him appropriately. Gerard can't help but get a little kick out of the fact that for people so incredibly dedicated to details they never seem to notice he hasn't aged a day.

The trip takes the better part of the day, and by the end of it he's exhausted. He feels like if he wiped at his face it'd come away covered in soot. He just wants to go home and make a cup of coffee and – oh, fuck, that's right. He's out of coffee. And most of his food.

He sighs and turns the car to get off at the next stop. Grocery store it is.

The store is crowded with people who must have the same idea as him, swinging by after work to pick up some food for dinner, and maneuvering through the aisles with his cart seems like an effort worthy of a medal. He stands in front of the apple display in the produce section trying to choose between Fuji and Honeycrisp when a woman says, "Excuse me," and gestures to Gerard's cart, which is blocking the Granny Smiths.

Gerard moves his cart automatically, but then he gets a good look at the woman standing next to him. It's Frank's mom, Linda, and the familiar knot in his stomach seizes up immediately. He can't move, really. He just stands there, torn between wanting to really watch her and being afraid of looking at her directly. He takes a surreptitious sniff and no, she smells the way Frank used to, just human. Familiar, though, in a way, but in a way he can't figure out.

She finishes selecting her apples and catches him looking at her, but she just smiles and begins to pull her cart away. "You have a happy Thanksgiving."

Gerard blinks and looks around, noting the abundance of autumnally colored decorations. "Y-you, too," he manages. He watches her back as he disappears into one of the grocery aisles and finally exhales.

He backs up abruptly with his cart and makes a beeline for the deli. He might as well get a little bit of turkey for dinner tomorrow, and it'll give him some extra time to let his heart stop pounding.

***

Frank loves his family, really, he does, but by the end of the day of Thanksgiving he really just wants to curl up on the couch and sleep and not have to pretend to his relatives that high school is the best thing ever or answer a bunch of questions about Jenny. The four-day weekend the school gives them is pretty awesome, though, and he manages to get in plenty of time to shoot the shit with his friends (and shoot the shit out of the aliens in Ray's new video game, because it's awesome).

The problem with long weekends, though, is that waking up on Monday morning always feels even worse. Frank stares up at the ceiling of his bedroom and groans, rubbing at his eyes and trying to remember the dream he had. It was pretty good. It felt pretty good. He was wrestling somebody, or something, but he was pretty sure he was winning.

Frank sighs and rolls so he can put his feet on the floor and start blearily scouting for his uniform. Another boring-ass day in another boring-ass week at his boring-ass school.

*

Wednesday morning Frank wakes up and his skin is on fire. He gasps awake, writhing, and claws frantically at his arms. The flare lessens slightly when he drags his fingernails over the skin, but only slightly, just enough to breathe again. He rolls out of the bed and stumbles to his feet, yanking the covers back to look for bedbugs or ants or poison ivy or fucking something. There's nothing.

"What the fuck," he pants, staring at his empty sheets.

"Frank," his mom calls from downstairs, "are you still in bed? You're going to be late for school!"

"I'm up!" he says. Shit. He is going to be late. Pulling his uniform on feels like rubbing burlap against a mosquito bite, or something, and he has to bite his lip to stifle a moan.

His mom gives him a concerned look when he pads down the stairs, still yanking on his tie and shoving his shirt into his waistband. "You okay? You look sort of flushed."

Frank ducks away from her outstretched hand and grabs a cold packaged Pop-Tart out of the pantry behind her. "I'm fine, I'm just in a rush – I'll see you later, okay?" He grabs his backpack from where he dropped it by the front hallway the night before and half-runs to the door.

"Sure thing. Have a good day at school!" she says, but Frank doesn't answer before pulling the door shut quickly behind him.

*

"Dude, are you okay?" Ray asks when Frank makes it to the corner. "Where's your coat? You're going to get sick."

Frank brushes him off. His skin is still throbbing. "I'm good, dude. It's warm today."

Ray stares at him and Frank can see the mist from his breath. Well. It feels warm. Frank blinks a little and walks briskly past him. "Let's just go, yeah? Don't want to be late."

He can hear Ray hesitate, briefly, and then hurry to catch up.

*

That day in gym he outruns everyone in his class when they have to run the track. Coach Cradinsky stares at him as he runs by, and he knows he's probably questioning every single time he's ever had to sit out gym because he could barely fucking breathe, but he doesn't even care, he can't even stop. Nothing hurts.

*

Jenny smiles at him in the hallway between classes and it feels like his spine jerks, like a spark under his skin. He's about to walk on past when she reaches out and tugs on his sleeve, pulling him over to the side.

"Hey, Frank," she says. "Feels like I haven't seen you in forever. How was your holiday?" She's fiddling with one of the buttons on her jacket sleeve like she knows something's off with him.

Frank has to get out of there. He's already in a cold sweat again. "Uhm, oh, it was good. It was good. Listen, I have to –" he stutters, pulling himself away. "I gotta go, I gotta go this way – " and then disappears around the corner.

He pretends not to see the worried look on her face, but he doesn't forget. Fuck.

*

Thursday is worse. The itch is still there but it's different, today. Deeper, like it's moved into his veins and his stomach and his toes and his fucking dick, like every time somebody at school even glances his way he wants to throw them up against a wall and rub one out on their thigh, whole fucking rest of the class standing in the hallway be damned.

He avoids Ray and Bob the entire day until lunch when Ray sees him fumbling with his food tray and waves him over. He knew he should have skipped lunch but he was so fucking hungry, and - he freezes, desperately hoping for an out, but there's nothing. He grips tightly to his tray as he sits delicately down next to them and just tries to breathe.

"How'd you do on that bonus question for Reiding's quiz?" Ray asks.

Frank just shakes his head. Everything seems fogged over, glazed. "I don't know. Something."

"Something?" Ray asks, teasing. "You did something?"

Frank feels like if he grips any harder onto his tray he'll crack it in half. Why does Ray have to fucking bother him right now? Why can't they just fucking leave him –

"What's that smell?" he asks, suddenly, dropping the tray to the table. Something smells, something smells amazing, and it hits him so hard he can barely focus his eyes.

Bob stares at him, frowning. "What smell?"

"That smell." He leans over towards Ray, his eyes half-closed.

"Uh, Frank, I don't – " Ray stutters, leaning back a little in his chair.

Frank opens his eyes and stares at Ray's tray. "What's that? That yours?"

Ray and Bob both stare at him. "Uh, that's the cafeteria's attempt at making something called a cheeseburger, Frank. Are you fucking high?"

"Are you going to eat it?" he asks, still staring.

"Are you?" Bob asks, incredulous.

Frank's already reaching out for it when Bob reaches out and grabs his arm. Frank's about ready to fucking bite his hand off right then and there when Bob speaks up.

"Dude, your choice or whatever, but do you really think that eating that piece of shit is the best way to reintroduce your stomach to life as a carnivore? At least save it for something they didn't scrape out of a cardboard box."

Frank just stares at his hand on his arm. That's right. Vegetarian. Two years and counting. "Oh. Y-yes. Okay."

Bob releases him and sits back. Frank darts his eyes up and he can see Jenny looking at him oddly from the table with her friends. She looks like she's about to stand up and come over to them, and Frank can barely mumble an excuse before he's pushing back from the table and half-running out of the cafeteria, leaving his tray and his friends behind.

He shoves open the door of the bathroom and practically flings himself into the last stall, only allowing himself to breathe when he's got the door locked behind him and he's left sitting on the seat, his head in his hands. His skin is practically fucking thrumming.

He stops breathing for a second and just listens. There's no one in the bathroom. The bell's already rung. Everyone's back in class.

There's a little part of him, buried back, back behind the itch that tells him in a reasonable tone that it's a terrible, terrible idea, that there's no way this can end well, but he forgets all of that as soon as he's got his hand shoved into his pants and on his dick.

It feels so good he wants to cry, but he settles for a long, low moan. Jesus fucking Christ. He rubs his hand back and forth over his dick and exhales, leaning over until his face is braced against the cool steel of the toilet paper dispenser.

He's already fucking leaking precome over his hand and he's barely touched himself. He can barely hear the sound of his dress shoes slipping against the tile floor over the sound of his own harsh panting but he doesn't slow down.

It's got to be only a couple of minutes, at the very most, before his toes are curling and his spine is jerking and the warmth is pooling in his toes and the itch stops for one, blissful second before it singes every cell in his body and he comes so hard he can't see, has to clamp his free hand over his mouth and bite down to stifle the gasping cry that comes out.

He sits there for a few minutes afterward, his hand still on his dick, hand still over his mouth, just breathing. There's still no one in the bathroom. He's still alone. His skin is still fucking thrumming.

He finally manages to pull it together enough to clean himself up with toilet paper and straighten his uniform. He pauses in front of the mirrors after he's washed his hands and quietly presses a wet paper towel to his face. His cheeks are still bright and his pupils still look too big and dark for the light in the room.

Frank sighs and throws the paper towel a little more forcefully at the garbage can than is probably necessary. He can't keep this up. What is going on.

*

It's true. He can't keep it up. He makes it until first period on Friday morning when Todd Amano brushes past him in the aisle to get to his desk and he almost pops a boner right there. He has to put his face down on the desk and close his eyes and think of naked old people and being buried alive and his parents' divorce.

When he's finally presentable again he shoots his hand into the air. "Mrs. Kinsley?"

Mrs. Kinsley pauses in her speech about something or other in front of the class and stares at him. "Yes, Frank."

"I don't feel well. Can I go to the nurse?" It's true, he must be sick if Todd Amano is getting him hot. Todd would make Medusa cry.

"Of course."

Frank slides out of his seat and grabs his backpack and tries not to run to the nurse's office down at the other side of the building. Sometimes it's helpful to have the reputation as the sickly kid.

He opens the door and pops his head inside. Ms. Jackson is with another kid, peering into his throat with a light and a depressor or something. He didn't know people still actually used that shit.

"Hey, Ms. Jackson – I don't feel well. Can I go home?"

She doesn't even glance his way, just keeps peering into the kid's throat. "Sure, Frank. You running a fever again?"

"Yeah, I think so. The slips still in your desk?"

"Top drawer."

He grabs one of the permissions slips out of the desk and fills it out, already far too familiar with the procedure. She only stops her examination of the other kid to turn, glance him over (he still looks really flushed, he's sure), and sign at the bottom.

"Feel better, kiddo, okay? I don't want to have to hear about any more hospital visits for you."

The kid (some sophomore, maybe) kind of gives Frank a suspicious look but then goes back to being distracted by Ms. Jackson shoving the depressor back into his throat.

Frank just slips out and heads down to the office to hand in the form. He denies the offer for his mom to come pick him up (even though they still have to call her, but he knows she's far too familiar with the procedure, and he won't have to see her until she gets off work tonight) and finally, finally, finally manages to get out of the school.

As soon as he's around the block he takes off at a run, his feet pounding against the pavement and his backpack flapping awkwardly against his back. He barely remembers to lock the front door behind him before he's running up the stairs, hastily fumbling at his belt and shirt buttons as he makes his way down the hallway and towards his room.

And then he's in his room, and he's alone, and he gives up on the fucking buttons and just pulls the shirt over his fucking head and shoves his pants down and kicks them off as he falls back on the bed and sticks his hand down into his boxers and onto his dick.

He comes even faster this time, and it takes him only a couple of minutes of writhing against the sheets and panting to be pretty sure that he's about ready to go for another round. Like now. Like now.

He moans and rolls over and whines at the feeling of the sheets against his bare skin. He lets out a shuddery exhale - one, two, three - and then starts stroking again.

*

By that afternoon he's on the verge of tears. What is wrong with him? What is wrong with him? He lifts his face up from its resting place on the side of the toilet to lean back into the bowl and dry heave some more as another wave of pain and nausea rolls in his stomach and up his spine.

He keeps his eyes closed and just spits. He's probably got drool all over his chin by now. Awesome.

He tried calling his mom twice but each time her phone went straight to voicemail. She's probably still in a meeting. He pants and fumbles for the phone on the floor by his knee again, hits the speed dial number for her cell and waits, just tries to breathe and not throw up. Voicemail again. He has to push the heel of his hand into his eyes to stop them from leaking but they still ache. Everything aches.

The pain recedes for a second and he wants to cry out of sheer relief, but he knows what's coming, what's been happening ever since he came home – and he's right. The itch is back. He moans and presses forward, his eyes glazing over, and lays his head back on the rim of the toilet so he can press his palm against his dick.

Finally, though, in a rare moment of clarity, he makes a decision – fuck this, fuck all of this, the embarrassment factor involved in this whole fucking situation is no longer enough to keep him from getting help, and if he's going to die at least he can do it while trying to get help instead of on the bathroom floor with his hands down his pants. There has to be someone he can talk to without his mother having to deal with him dying with his hands down his pants.

He staggers to his feet and overbalances, slamming against the towel rack on the opposite wall. He barely remembers to grab his phone off the floor and shove it in his pocket as he stumbles his way out the bathroom. He feels drunk and hungover and high all at the same time, and a periphery glance to the mirror gives him all the information he needs to confirm that he looks about as hellacious as he feels.

He manages to scrawl a note to his mom on the back of her to-do list notepad in the kitchen going over to Ray's, have my phone, xo f and has his hand on the front doorknob when there's a loud, almost frantic knocking.

His mom, please be his mom, it has to be –

He opens the door and Gerard's standing on his front porch just staring at him, like Frank's about to attack him or die on the spot.

"Gerard?" Frank manages to pant. He doesn't have time for this. He has to get to Ray's.

"Where are you going?" Gerard asks. He's wringing his hands.

"None of your fucking business," Frank snarls. Who does this guy think he is? Besides in his fucking way.

Gerard frowns. Frank's never seen him look so serious. "You need to come with me."

"Get away from me," Frank says, moving to shut the door. He'll just go out the back door and hop the fence, fuck Gerard, but Gerard steps forward and shoves the door so Frank can't close it.

"Frank, I'm serious –"

"Get the fuck out," Frank says as he shoves back on the door. Gerard pushes again, and he's way stronger than he looks because he manages to slide in like it's nothing.

What the fuck, seriously, Frank has to get out of here. He turns to move towards the back of the house but Gerard reaches out and grabs his arm, and at the contact of Gerard's skin to his skin his knees give out and he hits the floor.

Gerard's there in a flash, cradling his head and saying something, something, but he can't concentrate, his skin is on fire and things are writhing underneath his veins and he just wants to push up against Gerard and bite down and fucking tear into him and –

He barely realizes that they're up and moving, then, Gerard clinging to his hands and half-carrying him out the front door and over towards his house. Frank just moans.

***

"Hold on, Frank, just hold on," Gerard pants, fumbling with his front door. It's still unlocked from where he ran out of it just minutes before, desperate to find Frank once he had realized he hadn't come home from school at his normal time. God, if he had been out on the street -

Frank moans again and digs his fingernails into Gerard's sides. Frank's skin is on fire.

"Almost there, almost." He pulls Frank inside and kicks the heavy door shut behind him. "This way, here we go."

He maneuvers Frank to the horsehair sofa in the parlor and lays Frank down. He's pretty much boneless and he writhes against the slick fabric as soon as Gerard loosens his grip.

Gerard stands back and tries not to stare at the patches of sweat around his neckline, down his back, the strip of stomach that shows whenever he slides down further on the sofa.

After a few seconds Frank seems to come back to himself a little bit, even though he keeps looking at Gerard like he's in a fever-dream.

"Where," he says, breathing heavily. "What, what's –" He stops to gesture vaguely around him, but Gerard gets the message.

He wants to curl up against Frank's side and just hold him, but he can't, he can't right now, so he starts pacing frantically back and forth in front of the couch and wringing his hands.

"I'm so sorry, Frank, I'm so sorry," he starts babbling, everything spilling out of him all at once, "I didn't mean to, I didn't – you weren't supposed to be there, and they distracted you, and I mean why in the hell were you trying to play with wolves anyway, and I didn't mean to bite you, I swear-"

"You bit me? What?" Frank asks, panting. He looks so confused.

Gerard stops. "Oh, yeah. Uhm. The wolf? That…that was me."

Frank stares at him. He doesn't look like he's breathing at all, now.

"What."

Gerard feels like he's on the edge of a cliff, his stomach already plummeting down to the rocks below. "I bit you, Frank. I'm a werewolf."

Frank keeps staring.

Gerard chances a glance out the window, but he doesn't need to, the timing of the moon is ingrained in his blood. He always knows. "And in about twenty-three minutes, you will be too."

Frank forcibly pushes off the couch and seems to aim his stumbling movements towards the front door. "Fuck you, man, okay, fuck you-"

"Frank, no!" Gerard says, starting after him.

"And fuck your creepy old house and your fucking, your f-fucking –" he tries to get out as he lunges for the front door. Gerard has to practically pounce at him to reach him before he gets to the doorknob, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him back.

Frank moans and practically folds in half in his grip, his hands going lax against the door and sliding down until they hang in mid-air. Gerard struggles with the awkward weight, and they tip and hit the floor. The sweat patch on the back of Frank's shirt is huge, and he's gasping breaths, now, like he's having an attack or something, and Gerard doesn't know what to do.

"What are you going to do, hm," Frank slurs. He sounds like he's drunk. Gerard can't remember his first change, but he's heard the stories, knows what the moon fever's like for the new. It doesn't mean it still doesn't scare the shit out of him, though.

"I'm going to keep you safe, Frank. For yourself and others."

Frank pitches in his grip, rolls against Gerard's arms in an attempt to get him off. They end up tumbling over on the ground until Gerard manages to swing his legs over Frank's stomach and grip his wrists in his hands.

Frank snarls at him. "What are you going to do, fucking sit on me until the moon rises?"

Gerard keeps his voice level. "Well, actually, in a couple of minutes I'm going to lock us both in the basement until the morning so you can't claw anybody to death, but, yes, metaphorically, that's sort of the plan –"

"Oh fuck this," Frank says as he bucks up and thrashes against him. Gerard's stronger, though, and holds on.

"I'm not going to hurt you, Frank, I'm not, I just have to make sure you're okay, you just have to trust me –" he starts, but then Frank moans and rolls his hips up against him and Gerard's words catch in his throat.

Frank stares up at him and his eyes are dark and instead of pulling away from Gerard's grip he shoves his hands forward to latch into the fabric of Gerard's shirt. Gerard just clings to his wrists and gapes.

"Frank, wait, you shouldn't – " he starts, but Frank's not listening. He rolls up against him again, and he's hard, and rutting up against Gerard, and Gerard does not know what the fuck to do so he just holds on as Frank keens and uses him for friction.

Frank's not even trying to stop, now, and his back is arched off the ground and there's sweat all around the dip of his throat, and Gerard shuts his eyes and presses his face to the hollow of his collarbone where Frank's shirt is stuck down to his chest and listens as he comes hard against his thigh.

When he pulls back Frank's flushed and his eyes are closed and his hands are still fisted in the front of Gerard's shirt, but the line of his body seems more relaxed than Gerard's seen him all day. Frank sighs, and opens his eyes and looks at him and he looks like he doesn't even really see Gerard, like he's still looking at him through a fog.

He can tell when the fog breaks, though, and the first wave of the change hits him, snaps his back and makes him cry out in pain.

"I got you, Frank, I got you," Gerard says, finally coming back to himself. He has to get them in the basement now.

Frank moans and rolls to turn on his side, his hands scrabbling at the hardwood floor. Gerard eases up off of him and pulls him up into his arms, and Frank cries out and fights against him but Gerard holds on. He can practically feel his bones throbbing through his skin.

He manages to get them down the stairs of the basement with only a few close calls of Frank banging his head against the walls. He lays Frank down in the pile of old shredded couch cushions in the corner of the room and runs back up the steps to throw the deadbolt. It takes him a few times as the pain makes his fingers cramp and he ends up having to use the whole side of his arm at one point – he's close, he's not as bad as Frank, but he's right behind him, he's so close to the change – but he manages and the slick locks clang into place with a satisfying, secure thunk.

He can hear Frank behind him in the basement making nonsensical sounds, and when he finally manages to get back down there he has to rush to Frank's side to grab his wrists again. Frank's half-crying and panting, clawing at the skin on his forearms, and he's drawn blood on his left arm.

"Frank, stop, stop, it's okay," Gerard pants, but it's getting harder for him to talk, "I'm right here, okay, I'm right here."

Frank cries out, and arches up against Gerard's grip, and Gerard can see the pinched, sharp teeth inside his mouth.

Gerard closes his eyes and holds on as long as he can. Eventually Frank snarls and pulls away and when Gerard opens his eyes there's a small dark wolf breathing heavily where Frank hand just been.

He looks the same, is the last clear thought Gerard has before shifting himself.

The change finally overwhelms him, then, and he tries his best to bear it as his bones and organs shift against themselves and into place, like every cell in his body has to be drawn out and replaced, like a needle catching thread in fabric and piercing again. Finally, though, things settle where they should, and he pitches forward onto all fours. He looks up and Frank's there. He's there.

Then there are two wolves in the basement, one tired and nervous and one filled with boundless joy.

Gerard doesn't know what to do. He's always been able to read Frank better as a wolf than he ever was as a boy, and he knows that Frank is dazed and exhausted but also completely terrified and most likely more than a little crazy. It's still - it's still not the same. It makes him sad, honestly, sort of gut-wrenchingly sad. He was hoping that when Frank changed he'd remember everything and the curse would be broken and everything would be like it should be, but when Gerard takes a step closer to Frank and Frank snarls and backs up into a corner, he knows it's not.

Frank makes a bolt up the stairs but Gerard does nothing to stop him. He knows the door is locked and he won't be able to get out until morning. He can hear Frank clawing at the door to no avail. There's nothing to do but wait. Eventually Frank comes tearing down the stairs and heads straight for Gerard. This is not the play fighting they used to do Before, this is Frank half crazy and desperate and pissed off and confused and he does not want to be there. He doesn't even hesitate before he snarls and lunges for Gerard.
It's a mean fight, too, even though Gerard doesn't make any moves to seriously hurt Frank. He still manages to lash out and cut Frank on the foreleg before Frank can do any real damage. Frank was always a better fighter but he doesn't seem to have the motions down right, he doesn't seem to be able to understand his reflexes well enough yet, it's all sloppy and fast but not practiced. When Frank stumbles Gerard clamps his jaws on the back of Frank's neck. It's the sort of dominant move that Alphas used to do, back Before, but Gerard had never really had a use for it. And never with Frank. But enough's enough, and if he doesn't stop this now Frank is going to hurt himself. He has worked too hard and waited too long for that to happen.

Frank wilts at the gesture, and Gerard can tell he knows he's lost. Gerard gives his neck a good squeeze, only breaking the skin a little, before he lets him go and takes a few steps back. Frank retreats back to the ruined pile of pillows looking defeated. Gerard can see that his foreleg is still bleeding and he's doing nothing to stop it. Eventually, though, he ignores Frank's wary looks and makes his way over, sitting down beside him. A few beats pass, and he leans over and licks the wound. Frank doesn't look at him while he tends to it, but he doesn't draw away, and that, more than anything that has happened in the past few weeks, gives him hope.

It's a long night of inaction. Gerard longs to go out and run like he had in the past, like he had last month, back when he accidentally turned Frank. There's a tenseness in Frank's muscles that Gerard knows are his own instincts to use his form for all its worth, but after a few hours of staring either determinedly at the wall or at Gerard, eventually he turns away and falls asleep on his side. Gerard inches a little closer and lets the scent of Frank surround him like it hasn't in decades.

Even in his sleep Frank's legs twitch with the urge to run, and Gerard hopes that soon they can go out together and run like Before and not put anyone at risk. Maybe. Maybe one day. Gerard falls asleep eventually, giving in after hours of watching Frank.

When he awakes Frank is looking over at him, but when Gerard lifts his head, Frank's attention returns to the small window far above his head over in the corner. Gerard can see a hint of light. Dawn will be coming soon and they'll go back to their human form, and he'll have no reason to keep Frank with him any longer.

Eventually the change comes again. Gerard is used to the feeling, sort of like a sharp muscle cramp all over his body up to his eyeballs, then it's gone, but he knows it won't be as easy for Frank. When Gerard looks up, Frank is gasping and sweating, and he looks like he hasn't slept in days. And naked. They're both naked. Gerard probably should have warned him that his clothes were going to get shredded, but he's not really the best at planning ahead. Gerard decides not to make him more uncomfortable than necessary, so he hurries to grab some blankets from the linen closet over in the corner.

"C'mon," he says, tossing one of the blankets to Frank and not watching while he huddles inside of it like a child. "I've got some extra clothes you can borrow to go home. I don't think your mom will be up yet." He wraps one of the other blankets around himself and walks up the stairs to unlock the door. It's a weird little lock he installed at the top of the door, too high for a wolf to reach and completely impossible without opposable thumbs, and after a grunt the door is open again.

He pads into the bedroom and pulls on some sweatpants and a big worn out t-shirt he finds already lying on the bed. Every bone aches. When Frank goes home, Gerard will probably curl up in a miserable ball under the covers and sleep the day away and try and forget how Frank still hates him. He's rooting through the closet to find some clothing that doesn't smell too terrible for Frank to wear when he hears soft footsteps behind him. He turns, clothes in hand, to see Frank wrapped up in the blanket standing in the doorway and shifting nervously from foot to foot. He looks pretty rattled.

Gerard hands over the clothes, and Frank sneaks a hand out of his little cocoon to take them hesitantly. "These should fit you fine. Uhm, you always were smaller than me, so-"

"Can I stay here?" Frank asks, staring at a spot over Gerard's shoulder.

"Oh, uh-"

"I'm just. Kind of tired. And. I'm already here, so. I told my mom I was going to my friends house last night," Frank says, and Gerard sees him pale as he thinks about what could've happened. "So, like, I'd never be home this early and, I mean, I don't want to. Uh. You know what, no, I'm sorry, I'll go-" Frank stammers, lowering his head and starting to back away. It's the exact same motion his wolf made when he backed away last night, and it's eerie.

"No!" Gerard startles, taking a step forward. "No, please stay. You can sleep in here. I'll go out to the couch."

"I don't want to kick you out of your own bed."

"It's not a big deal. I'm used to sleeping on dirt. And like. Mud. I'll take the co-"

"No, I mean. You can stay. If you want." Frank's still not making eye contact with him, but Gerard isn't going to overthink anything right now. Frank just had the most fucked up night in his life, and he isn't running away or trying to stake Gerard with silverware or anything, so. He'll take it.

He turns his back to Frank to give him some privacy while he changes and proceeds to clean all of the extra clothes and sketchbooks and old dusty books off of his bed. When he turns around, Frank is still wrapped in the blanket, but it's loose around his shoulders and Gerard can see his oversized shirt hanging around his collarbone. Frank's hair is rumpled and sticking straight up, and it shouldn't be so attractive but oh man, Gerard is still so gone for him. He has to clench his fingernails into his palms so he won't reach out to touch. He crawls into bed and waits until Frank slips in to roll over onto his back and stare at the ceiling. Frank is asleep in minutes but what seemed easy to do while wolves seems impossible to do while human. He stares at the ceiling and listens to Frank breathe.

Everything in Gerard is screaming for him to reach out and touch Frank, to wrap himself around him and never let go. Especially when he hears the unconscious sounds of pain as Frank twitches a sore muscle in his sleep. He tries to sleep, but Frank keeps distracting him, if not with the sounds of pain, with his warmth, his movement, his presence. Gerard wishes he knew what any of this meant.

It doesn't make any sense. Frank should have gone running home, away from Gerard. Or at the very least made some comment about the fact that Gerard had, in fact, turned him into a werewolf. Not crawled into bed with him. Oh, how Gerard wishes he meant that euphemistically. Ninety-five years is a long time to be celibate, but no one could ever have compared to Frank, the memories were better than a stranger.

And that's the thing. The teen lying in Gerard's bed is so very much Frank that it's been haunting Gerard since he first laid eyes on him, but there's so much about him he doesn't know, and Frank doesn't know him. He doesn't dare hope that last night triggered something in Frank, some memories of their life Before. Gerard is just going to be patient and be glad Frank isn't running away.

It's almost ten a.m. when Frank's stomach growls loudly and he begins to stir. "Gerard?" he mumbles.

"Yeah, Frankie?" Gerard asks, rolling over to face him, but maintaining the distance between them.

Frank's eyes blink open. "So...definitely not a dream."

At least he didn't call it a nightmare. "No, not a dream," Gerard says. Frank's stomach rumbles again and Gerard sits up. "You should eat. Do you like pancakes?"

Frank runs a hand through his hair and makes it stick up even more, and Gerard has to try hard not to smile. It's a familiar gesture.

"I like pancakes," he says quietly.

"Well, good. I'm not much of a cook, but I can do pancakes." He rolls out the other side of the bed and stretches, sighing as the ridges in his back seem to pop back into place. "Take your time. I'll be down in the kitchen," he says gently. Frank might want a second to himself. Or the chance to run. Whichever.

***

Frank watches Gerard quietly pad out of the room, half-shutting the door behind him. He doesn't want to think about how his stomach twists when Gerard calls him 'Frankie.' It's just so familiar, like Gerard calls him that all the time, like he doesn't even notice he called him by a nickname Frank doesn't use with other people. But they barely know each other. And he's sleeping in Gerard's bed. And he's a werewolf. It's been a weird day. If he starts thinking about it all too much his head starts to spin, and right now he just wants to eat and maybe sleep some more.

Frank jerks out of bed and quickly follows Gerard into the kitchen of his house. He's never really taken the opportunity to look around much, but now that he does he can see how weird of a house it really is. The architecture is strange and outdated, but it's furnished with completely mismatched furniture, almost all of it well-worn and well-used, like it's been picked out of a rummage sale. Come to think of it, he doesn't think that Gerard has a job. He's always home when Frank gets off from school in the afternoon. He wouldn't be surprised if all of his furniture was secondhand, probably from somebody's curb.

The kitchen is warm, though, and every surface not taken up by vintage looking kitchen appliances is absolutely crammed full of books and VHS tapes. Any of the tapes that don't have a cover are labeled neatly in the same strange, looping handwriting. Frank knows he's seen it before. The package. The scarf. Of course. He pauses to glance around the room, take in more of the odd decor, but spots Gerard peering at him from his spot by the sink. Gerard seems to catch him staring and answers before he can ask.

"Uhm, I really like reading. And TV. I really like TV," he says, pulling frying pans and spatulas and milk and eggs out of various cupboards. "Books take longer to read, though, and I've got a lot of time to kill."

"What do you do?" Frank asks, pulling one of the pitted bar stools away from the little kitchen bar and taking a seat. There are only two chairs in the whole kitchen, one at the bar and one at the tiny dining table. It makes Frank sort of sad to think that Gerard doesn't even seem to think he'll ever have need for more.

"I wait."

"You wait? Like, what, tables? You work nights?"

Gerard smiles a little and doesn't make eye contact as he cracks the eggs one handed into a large bowl. "No, no. Not like that. I don't need a lot of money so I can live off of my paintings. That's not what I do, though. I wait. I wait for you. I don't want to do anything else."

Gerard's still not looking at him, and Frank can't think of a thing to say, so he just pulls the blanket a little bit closer around his shoulders and watches Gerard's pale hands whisk the batter together.

Frank starts feeling twitchy with all of the questions he knows he should be asking, but he's just. He's not ready for that right now. "Do you-" Frank begins, "-want me to set the table?" It's chicken shit, but he knows Gerard won't call him on it, and he can't just sit there staring at Gerard. The tables have turned as far as that goes.

Gerard looks up, but keeps an eye on the batter now sizzling in the pan. "Uh, yeah, sure. Plates are up there, forks and shit are in the drawer," he says as he points with the spatula.

The cabinets are neat enough, but they're lined with old yellow newspaper. Frank cranes his head to look at it and boggles when he sees the small 1938 following the month and day. "Dude, how long have you lived here?"

"A long time," Gerard answers, not looking up from the stove.

"How long?" Frank presses. He thinks he know the answer, but he wants to hear it.

"Since my grandmother died. This was her house. She left it to me and my brother. We moved back after she passed away." Gerard's voice is soft and sad.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean-" The last thing Frank wants is to make Gerard sad.

"It's all right. Like I said - it was a long time ago," he repeats.

"Yeah?" Frank pushes less directly.

"Elena died in 1932. Mikey made it til 1981. I know he would've liked to stay longer."

And there it is. Gerard's had this house since 1932. Holy fucking shit. He's a like a hundred years old. A one hundred year old werewolf. Maybe older. Holy fuck. He doesn't know if Gerard can tell he's freaking out, but suddenly there's a mountain of pancakes in front of him, butter and syrup close behind. He blinks at the food and falls on them like, well, like a ravenous werewolf.

Holy shit.

They're really good pancakes. Frank would normally be embarrassed by how many he is taking in, but they're really good and he's really starving and it's been a really really weird night. He doesn't even notice that Gerard is hardly touching his food, mostly just moving it around on his plate with his fork.

"What's the matter?" Frank asks inbetween bites. "I thought you liked pancakes?"

Gerard just pushes the pancake around on his plate and makes little swirl designs in the syrup. "Why haven't you left?" he says, and then immediately freezes, like he's worried suggesting it will make Frank bolt.

Frank pauses to swallow. "Do you want me to leave?" Maybe he's asking too many questions. And he remembers last night, the way Gerard gripped onto his neck with his jaws. If Gerard wanted him to leave, he'd leave.

"No. No, I don't want you to leave. I just. You know. Most people would leave."

"Well, I'm not most people."

"No, you're certainly not." Gerard smiles sort of forlornly at the pancake on his plate. Frank swirls his finger in the syrup and then sucks it into his mouth and tries not to notice how Gerard's eyes dart up at the noise.

"I want to show you something." There's a determination in Gerard's face, now. Frank doesn't know what he wants to show him, but he knows that whatever it is, it's important, and it's a test. They've been skirting around things all night, and Frank knows they're finally getting to the main issue. The thing that's going to break this tentative thing they've got here.

Gerard gets up from the table and leaves the room. Frank isn't sure if he's meant to follow, and he feels kind of weird going into other parts of Gerard's house, but he gets up and follows him out of the room and down a long hallway. Gerard goes into a room that looks like it would have been an old study. There's an old engraved desk covered in papers (and a wicked bat paperweight, woah) that looks as though it cost more than all of the furniture in his house put together sitting right next to a leopard print dog pillow. Gerard, however, is rifling through some sort of chest that he's pulled out from underneath the desk and placed on the surface.

Frank gets close enough to Gerard to peer over his shoulder. It looks like a really poorly organized memory chest, of some sort. Frank sees an old watch and several news clippings and old photographs, the kind where everyone is sitting still and looks unhappy to be there. Gerard finally pulls out two photographs and a news clipping, and they look so frail in his hands that they could just disintegrate at the touch.

Gerard flips the photographs around. The first is of Gerard, and it's so obviously Gerard that Frank is stunned. He's standing next to a young man who looks sort of like him, but younger and sharper, his face mostly masked by large, thick glasses. Gerard doesn't look as tired, either. He even manages to have that same little smile at the corners of his mouth that Frank saw just a few minutes ago while he was making pancakes. The dress in the photograph is dated, the collars sharp, the vests well-tailored.

"That's Mikey," Gerard says, pointing to the man standing next to him, "and that's me." Frank can see the little date written in the corner, too. 1912. Jesus.

"And that's you." He points to the second photograph and Frank can't breathe. It's him, wearing those stiff clothes and looking stoic in the middle of a group of people he doesn't recognize. Gerard and Mikey aren't in the picture at all.

"That's your family. They lived in the same town as us. It was a really big family, even though you didn't have any brothers or sisters. You always really wanted a big family. I'm afraid they didn't really like me very much. I think they were glad you were friends with Mikey, though." Frank can barely hear him, although if it's because Gerard's speaking low or just that his brain is fogging over, he can't really tell.

Gerard turns over the scrap of newspaper, and Frank can see it's an obituary, dated April 18, 1914 and his name, his fucking name is at the top. He can vaguely hear Gerard talking about it, in gentle, soothing tones, as if that'll make it any less weird that he's a fucking werewolf and he's in a house with a werewolf who has apparently lived for over a hundred fucking years and he has pictures of a guy who looks just like him and a fucking obituary, and --

"I don't have any pictures of us together, I'm afraid. It was far too expensive and we didn't have a good enough lie to explain for just the two of us to have a picture. It would have raised too much suspicion. Although that obviously didn't matter enough in the end. They found out anyway -"

"No," Frank says, and takes a huge step back. He can feel the calm he's had since he woke up this morning cracking, splitting his skin. What is this? What is his life? What the shit is this? He needs some time away from this house and these old photographs and Gerard's face and eyes, and the way Gerard looks at him like Frank can save him. For fuck's sake, he's just turned seventeen, he can't do anything, he can't save anyone, why the fuck is this happening to him.

He doesn't realize he's shaking and panting until Gerard's strong hands wrap around his biceps and hold him tight. Frank's not sure he could run if he wanted to. It's the first time they've actually touched since last night and right now Frank wants Gerard to hold him together like he did when he was writhing in agony on the floor. Gerard makes soothing noises and slowly pulls him close until he's panting into Gerard's shoulder and eventually just letting out occasional deep, gasping breaths. Gerard runs his fingers up the back of Frank's neck and through the hair on the nape of his neck up to the crown and back again. It's a little like petting, but the ridges of Gerard's fingernails are soothing and calming and Frank just breaths and pulls himself back together.

"Is this normal-" of course not, they're goddamn werewolves, "-the waiting. I mean." Frank doesn't bother lifting his head from Gerard's shoulder, and Gerard doesn't stop petting him, but his hands do freeze for a moment.

"Not exactly. I was pretty broken up after what happened to you." Frank is more than a little certain that that is an understatement, but it's Gerard's story. He can't yet wrap his mind around the fact that they've had a story together before Frank's great-grandma was even born. "I probably would have done something drastic if it hadn't been for Mikey. I drank- a lot - Prohibition was rough.

"But in '24 I took my niece and nephew to the circus that was coming through town, and there was a Gypsy there. She was the real deal and, I don't know, I guess my misery impressed her. She said I'd been waiting a long time, but if I was patient, you'd come back."

Gerard chuckled. "I never thought I'd have to wait this long, but that doesn't matter anymore."

Frank leans into Gerard's neck, fighting the guilt that's building inside of him. He hates to think of Gerard alone for so long. He should have been born sooner. Or something. He shouldn't have done whatever got him killed in the first place. He should have been nicer to him. "I'm sorry," he says.

Gerard squeezes Frank's neck. "For what?"

"That I made you wait so long, that I was a total jackass to you. I should've known-"

"That you were the reincarnation of my werewolf mate from 1914? Frankie, this is some weird shit, it's not your fault. And if you had come back sooner, who's to say it wouldn't have happened all over again? Times had to change. I would have waited longer if I had to."

Gerard whispers that last part but they're so close Frank hears it anyway.

"Gerard, I-" Frank's phone starts buzzing from where he dropped his pants out in the hall and they both jump. "That's probably my mom."

Frank pulls away to go answer it and he feels colder immediately. He feels weird just leaving Gerard in the other room, where he can probably overhear the snippets of his conversation ("No, mom, I was at Ray's, no, I didn't skip, I was sick" and "no, I'm really sorry, I'm sorry, yes, okay" and "I'm on the way home right now") but at least only he has to hear her worried tone.

When Frank returns to the kitchen Gerard is already running warm water over the remains of their breakfast. He doesn't turn around when the floorboards creak underneath his feet, and he can't help but fidget in the doorway. He still feels cold.

"I have to go," he says. He squeezes his phone between his palms but it doesn't alleviate any of the pressure. Gerard is silent.

"But. Uhm. I'll come back. I think I'm pretty much grounded for a while, or I've gotta be a good son for a bit, she was kind of suspicious, but, yeah. I'll come back soon. Is...Is that okay?" Frank asks. He really hopes it's okay.

"Of course. I'll be here." Waiting.

There's a bit of an awkward pause. Gerard's hands are soapy and wet and his back is still turned, and Frank doesn't know what's an appropriate way to say good-bye. He might be the reincarnated werewolf lover Gerard lost almost a hundred years ago but he's also seventeen and he's awkward and right now, with this Gerard and this Frank, they are nothing yet.

He mutters a quiet, "Bye, Gerard," before he quietly pads out of the room towards the front of the house. Gerard keeps his back turned the whole time and doesn't watch him leave.

***

Frank is most definitely in trouble. His mom is not happy.

The only thing that really keeps her from coming down hard is that Frank did technically leave a note and doesn't smell like alcohol or weed and isn't hungover. If he were hungover she'd probably have him clean every room in the house. He's just exhausted. She fusses at him a lot and sends him to his room without even taking his phone away, so he types out a quick text to Ray. If my mom calls i was w/ u last night

Where were u, Ray replies quickly. she DID call. i covered for u.

thanks, man. ill tell u later. Frank has to think of something to tell Ray that doesn't involve werewolves or reincarnation.

He sleeps away most of Saturday and spends Sunday doing homework to appease his mom.
After he's done researching some articles for a paper he's got due in a couple of weeks, though, he can't help but pause and tap his finger against the side of the mouse as he thinks.

Surely if werewolves are real there's something out there, right? He takes a deep breath and sits forward in his chair, clicking over to the search engine. Werewolves. And go.

There are a lot of terrible homemade web pages in sparkly comic sans font and furry porn (oh, god, no, that's still not okay) but he does manage to find some shit that might be helpful. Myths, mostly, and a lot of legends he's picked up from a surprisingly helpful addiction to horror movies.

He gets caught up reading a bunch of pages about the old werewolf legends (apparently some of them could actually change into wolves at will, how cool would that shit be) when he pauses on a list of the rumored weaknesses. Huh.

Silver. It's so obvious, but Frank hadn't really thought about it, because usually it's silver bullets and he already does his best to avoid bullets no matter what metal they're made of. But maybe now he only needs to avoid the silver ones? And who even has those anymore? Frank highly doubts that there is anyone that would help him test the bullet invulnerability, but silver. His mom must have tons of silver jewelry and some of it's got to be real, right?

He pokes his head out of his room, checking to see what his mom is up to before he goes slinking into her bathroom to go through her jewelry. She caught him playing with her make up once, but that was two years ago and she wasn't already kind of pissed at him, so he'd prefer to avoid confrontation altogether.

There's a necklace he knows his grandma gave her years ago that's gotta be silver lying on the counter next to some of her earrings. He picks it up, testing it, and – it burns. Not horribly, but an itching, irritating sensation across his palm where the chain falls. He drops it back to the counter and runs his finger over the mark it left. It looks like a rash, or something, but doesn't feel any better if he scratches at it. Huh.

He wakes up the next morning and the mark is still there. It doesn't itch that bad but it doesn't stop him from freaking out a little that it's going to be permanent. School that whole week is...interesting, everything just seems a whole lot less attention-worthy when compared to being a werewolf. He can't stop flipping his palm over in class to look at the mark and gauge the color.

When his history class goes to the library to work on a project, he uses the computer to check when the next full moon is. Coach Cradinsky looks at him like he's grown a second head when he finishes running the mile in PE without having to stop once to prevent death by asthma and while lapping a couple of members of the cross-country team. Frank wonders if that's a werewolf thing, and makes a note to ask Gerard next time he can. He has a lot of things to ask Gerard the next time he can.

Jenny's not too pleased when she finds out he's sort of grounded indefinitely. It definitely puts a damper on the dating thing. Of course, then Ray asks what the two of them got up to on Friday night. It makes sense - most dudes would need to cover for staying out all night with their girlfriends, but Frank wasn't with her, and he still hasn't thought of a good lie, so when she asks, he just has to shrug.

"Uh, out. I just didn't make it home," he says, and it's kind of true.

"Were you with another girl?" she asks, angry and upset.

"No! I swear I was just..." He can't tell the truth, and he feels guilty about how much time he's spent thinking about Gerard and what it would have been like with Gerard in his first life. He's not sure when he started believing all the past lives stuff, but it's easier to go with it than try to fight all the proof Gerard showed him. He just doesn't know what to say.

Jenny looks at his face and comes to her own conclusions, throwing him the dirtiest look in the fucking world before turning and leaving Frank staring at his sandwich as Ray and Bob give him weird looks. "Dude, I think your girlfriend just broke up with you," Bob observes.

Frank's shoulders slump. "Yeah."

"Frank...are you in any trouble? Like, if it's drugs, or something, we can get you help. No judgment," Ray says, hair bobbing earnestly.

"Thanks man, but I'm good. Just, life and shit." Frank wishes he could tell them, but he's pretty sure that'd be against the rules. Or at least he should check with Gerard first. Plus he doesn't want to tell Ray how Frank could've killed him and eaten every earnest hair on his head Friday night. The thought makes his lunch turns to stone in his stomach and he stabs a cold french fry against the tray until it turns to mush.

*

After two weeks of only waving at Gerard through the window, Frank gets creative. On his way home from school he walks on Gerard's side of the street and opens his mailbox, quickly grabbing something from inside. When he gets back to his place, he brings in his own mail, and drops it on the counter and waits til his mom gets home.

Frank tries not to twitch too much through dinner, and after he puts his dishes in the wash he casually flips through the mail. "Oh hey, mom, they gave us a piece of Mr. Way's mail. Should I bring it over to him?"

"Sure, Frankie."

He almost says "thanks" when he goes for his hoodie, and ends up saying, "I'll be back in a bit," before bounding out the door.

Frank doesn't run to Gerard's house, but he walks quickly, his heart pounding in his chest. Gerard doesn't answer the door immediately, and Frank realizes he doesn't even know if Gerard is home. That would ruin his whole plan, and like, his night.

Gerard answers the door about five seconds before Frank is ready to give up. He's got a smear of paint on his forehead above his eyebrow, and his face splits into a huge smile when he sees Frank.

"Hey," Frank says. "I stole some of your mail."

Gerard doesn't say anything, just opens the door wider and ushers Frank inside. He starts to walk back towards the kitchen, but Frank feels frozen by the door, still clasping the letter in his hand. His mom is going to notice if he's not back in a few minutes, but god he does not want to leave. The events of that night seem so completely surreal when he's standing in the front foyer and he can hear Gerard's coffee machine percolating away in the kitchen and there are no full moons or his own obituaries or neck-biting. He flexes his fingers around the letter still clasped in his hand.

Gerard opens his mouth to say something, maybe invite him back to the kitchen for coffee or for more freaky past life nostalgia fests, but before he can say anything Frank blurts out, "I can't stay really long or my mom will notice but I wanted to, uhm. I wanted to see you."

"You always were good at sneaking out," Gerard says. Frank winces a little. He knows Gerard can't help it, but Frank just doesn't know how to respond to things like that. He's not the Frank (or the Franklin, as spelled in the faded newspaper) from Before. Gerard says they're the same, but Frank just doesn't remember. And it's starting to scare him just how much he wishes he did.

Gerard seems to sense that he's a little flustered. "I have something for you," he says, with almost a pained half-smile. He leads Frank back toward the rear of the house with a gentle hand on the small of his back. Frank starts to protest, but Gerard silences him with an assurance that it will only take a moment. Frank's stomach stays in knots.

He takes him into a room Frank hasn't seen yet, back through the brightly lit kitchen and up a weirdly spaced set of stairs to what looks like a small storage loft. There are blank canvases lined up against the wall, and a paint covered linen tarp covers the floor. There's a well-sized round window at the far wall, and through it Frank can just see the branches of the large oak tree outside.

Gerard plucks the envelope out of Frank's hand but then pauses when he sees Frank's palm. He grabs it, but gently, and turns it so he can get a better look. "What did you do to yourself, Frankie?"

"Uh." Gerard's hand is a lot rougher than Frank would've expected. "I was looking up werewolf stuff online, and you know silver, and my mom had this necklace. It's not permanent, is it?"

Gerard runs his thumb over the red line and goosebumps pop up along Frank's arm. "You didn't hold it there for very long, did you?"

"No, I picked it up and it sort of slid, and yeah."

"Then it should fade by the next moon," Gerard says, squeezing Frank's hand before dropping it and finally looking at the letter in his hand. "I'm glad you brought this over," he says. "I was hoping it would get here soon." He digs his fingernail into the crease of the paper and slits it open.

Frank can't help but be nosy. "What is it?"

"A check. I sold another painting."

"For how much?"

"Enough." Gerard glances over the contents and then creases it in half and sticks it in his back pocket. Frank can see a smudge of blue already on the corner. It is the little blue smudge that is so fascinating to stare at when Gerard bends over. Oh god, he is a pervert, but can you blame him those are some really low jeans Gerard apparently likes to wear while painting and he is pretty sure the crotch is so worn it is about to dissolve out, what the hell -

"Uh, so-" he coughs out, diverting his eyes to look at some of the drawings tacked to the bare walls. "Can I ask you some more questions?"

"Of course," Gerard says, still rifling through the pile of artwork in the corner and not standing back up. The ceiling in here is great. Frank decides to stare at it some more. And definitely not at Gerard.

"So, uhm. Am I immortal like you, now?" he asks.

Gerard hesitates for a second, uneasy. "No. I'm not immortal either, I don't think. We…well, werewolves usually live longer than humans anyway, and the aging is slower, but I'm just – I'm just waiting. Paused, I guess."

"So now that I'm back you'll get older?"

Gerard doesn't hesitate this time, but he's quiet. "I don't know. It feels like it."

His nerves feel like they're rattling against the skin with the weight of all this. Frank scuffs his toe through some dust pressed into the cracks of the hardwood floor. "What about, uhm, in gym class today, I could actually run without dying of an asthma attack. That's weird, right?"

Gerard nods and moves to rifle through a new stack of paper. "Not for us."

Awesome. "Am I going to get all hairy and shit? Pull a Lon Chaney?"

Gerard lets out a honking sort of giggle. "I wish. I can't even get decent sideburns going. Oh, good, here it is." He stands back up (oh, he was rustling through a stack of papers on the chair over by the window for a reason, right, he had something for him) and walks back over to Frank with something in his hand, some sort of paper.

Frank barely outstretches his hand to take it from Gerard when he hears his cell phone ring. Shit shit shit he knows it's his mom, shit shit. He checks the caller ID hastily before flipping it open and blurting out, "Sorry sorry, yeah, mom, I'm coming, he wasn't home but uhm I put it in his mailbox and I just thought I heard a kitten in the storm drain so I got distracted. Nah, it was probably just the wind or something, I'll be right back," and hangs up. He's lucky he's a punk kid with a well-known affinity for tiny animals because it's a bullshit story his mom will totally buy.

"I gotta -" he starts, but Gerard is already leading him quickly out of the house. He slips the piece of paper into Frank's hoodie pocket and opens the front door for him, but before Frank can slip back outside he grasps his hand and looks straight into his eyes.

"The full moon's on a Sunday this month," he says. "You need to be here. It's not safe on your own. Try to get one of your friends to cover for you that night. I can get you to school the next day. Just bring a change of clothes."

Frank is scared by the little thrill that runs up his spine at the words. Gerard runs a thumb over Frank's cheek quickly, so light Frank can hardly feel it, and then in another blink Frank is on the front porch and the door is shut. Oh, right, home.

His mom doesn't question him too much when he gets home, just sends him upstairs to do homework, and it isn't until he's safely in his room with the door locked that he can pull the piece of paper out of his pocket and examine it by the light from his small desk lamp. He's half-terrified it will be another photograph of someone he should know but doesn't, but instead it's a small and worn looking ink painting. Frank runs his fingers over the thick textured paper.

It's a simple landscape of a roaming hillside and woods under a huge, almost staggering full moon. There are no wolves or people in the picture, just the open land and sky, and something in Frank's heart is desperate for it.

His dreams are dreams of running, and it's wonderful, but then the four legs are gone and it's a dream of running from someone, from something, and it's terrible and clumsy and he is never going to make it out of these woods alive oh god, oh god, they know, they're going to find him, and there's blood and it's making it hard to see but he has to keep going -- and he wakes up gasping in a cold sweat. He could have sworn he felt the mud around his ankles, the branches whipping at his face, the way his cold human fingers tried so desperately to find a way out.

He doesn't sleep for the rest of the night.

His mom comes in to wake him up in the morning and finds him staring at the ceiling, pale and clammy. "I'll call the school," she says, and returns two minutes later with a giant bottle of Gatorade in one hand and the phone in the other. "I want you to drink all of this by the time I get home. There's soup in the fridge and crackers in the cupboard."

She pushes back the hair that sticks to Frank's forehead. "Do you want help downstairs now? We can get the couch all set up."

Frank feels guilty about using his immune system's track record like this, but he isn't sure how he'd do in school today. "I think I can do it. Thanks, mom." He clings to her hand for a minute, half wishing he was still young enough for her to take the day off and spend it with him on the couch watching 101 Dalmatians.

She squeezes his hand and leans down to press a kiss to his forehead. "Okay, sweetie, call me if you need anything."

Sleep still won't come even though the sun is up, erasing all the midnight shadows so he quits trying and moves to the living room to watch some trashy soap operas. They haven't even introduced the hot new gardener (who is totally going to knock up the stepmom, okay, Frank knows these things) before there is a knock at the door. Frank is more than a little confused, but he wraps the worn blanket around his shoulders, shuffles to the door, and peers through the peephole.

Gerard's nose and tiny teeth look even weirder through the fisheyed glass, but Frank is glad to see them. The muscles in his shoulders relax a little as he opens the door.

"You didn't go to school today," Gerard says in a rush, eyes taking an inventory of Frank.

"No, I-" Frank doesn't want to worry Gerard. It was just a stupid dream. "I wasn't feeling well when I woke up." And that's the truth. Frank just woke up hours before he normally would have.

"Oh," Gerard says. "Um."

"Do you want to come in?" Frank asks, stepping back. "My mom won't be home for hours, we could just...hang out."

Gerard smiles, and the knot in Frank's gut dissolves. "Sure."

Gerard seems so out of place in Frank's house, standing next to the flowers his mom put in the hall yesterday, his reflection in the glass that covers the cabinet the CD player is in. "I was just watching TV," Frank says, pointing at the TV where some lady with huge hair is currently weeping a single, sad tear. "Have you ever seen this? I mean, we can change it."

"You kidding? I love As the World Turns," Gerard says, settling down on the couch. "I haven't seen this in a while, though. I used to have the biggest crush on Andy Dixon. He had the best hair."

What Frank wants to do is curl up on top of him and get Gerard to tell him that his dream was just a weird dream and that it's safe to go back to sleep. Instead, he sits down at the other end of the couch and listens to him breathe and stares at the screen.

Gerard seems pretty fascinated by the show (and the lady's single solitary tear). "Who's that girl?" He asks when one of the newer characters wanders onto the screen. Frank smiles as he fills Gerard in with the bits he remembers about the characters from the show. He's actually embarrassed by how much he knows about these fictional people, but hey, what can you do, he's spent a fair amount of his sick days on the downstairs couch watching trashy television.

Gerard's laughing at Frank's commentary, and Frank's trying not to smile too hard when Gerard's voice is suddenly silent. Luke and Noah are kissing on the screen.

"Who are they?" Gerard asks, almost hushed. He seems stunned in place.

"Luke and Noah," Frank says. "They're a little nuts but they finally got married earlier this year. I can't believe you weren't around for the Luke and Noah saga, man, you missed so much."

"I did," he says quietly.

Frank rolls his head on the back of the couch a little to look at him, but Gerard doesn't look back. "Where did you go? Ray said you disappear sometimes for a long time."

Gerard's eyes follow Noah on the screen, and he swallows before he speaks. "When I couldn't stand to wait anymore, I'd - I'd go looking."

For you. Frank's mouth feels dry.

"You went a lot of places?" he asks. His voice sounds high.

"All over, really. I didn't know where to look so I just went everywhere. I didn't really know what else to do."

Frank's silent. What the fuck is he supposed to say?

Gerard turns his head to look at Frank, but this time Frank keeps his eyes focused on the screen. "Is Guiding Light still on after this?" Gerard asks. "That was always my favorite. You should have heard it when it was still on the radio, it was amazing."

Frank exhales. "I've got some bad news for you, man."

Gerard's eyes widen. "No," he says.

Frank nods and makes sure to look especially concerned. "Yes."

"I hate missing important shit. I can't believe it's gone," Gerard says, sounding especially morose. Frank laughs and makes a mental note to teach him the wonders of a DVR player. He'll never miss a precisely lit single solitary tear again.

After a while he falls silent, his eyelids heavy and his concentration wavering. He manages to make it until the big confrontation in the South American prison at the end, but when Frank opens his eyes again he's alone in the living room. He blinks the sleep out of his eyes and sits up. There's a pillow under his head (and a little bit of drool on it, ugh) and a blanket tucked up to his chin, but Gerard is nowhere to be seen.

Frank picks up the lukewarm Gatorade bottle from the coffee table and sticks it back in the fridge. He might as well go upstairs to try and sleep if Gerard's gone. He must have been pretty bored. Frank's not surprised he slipped out when Frank passed out on the couch. Ugh, lame.

He doesn't even have the door to his room all the way open before Gerard scares the crap out of him.

"Who are these guys?" Gerard asks, standing up close to one of the music posters on his wall.

"Ahh, Jesus," Frank says, startled. "I thought you'd left."

Gerard looks flabbergasted. "Why would I leave?"

"Uhm, well. I'm sure you're busy. And I just sort of fell asleep, sorry about that."

"You looked tired. I didn't want to bother you." His eyes go back to the posters and pictures lining the walls of Frank's bedroom. Frank can see his glance stay on some photographs of Frank and his school friends, goofing off in their uniforms with slackened ties and shit-eating grins, and a framed one of him and his mom when he was about eleven and holding his first guitar. Frank knows they couldn't afford that guitar in the slightest, but he still got one, probably his mom's desperate way to make up for a year that had seen him mostly in and out of hospitals.

"Did I have the same mom?" Frank asks. "Before. Was she the same?" He hates that he wants to know, but. If he got to come back, it'd make sense that he'd have to come from the same person, right? He doesn't really like to think of himself without her.

"No, your mother was different," Gerard says. Something is pinched in his tone. "Does your mother now...does she approve?"

"Approve of what?" Frank takes a step closer to Gerard to look at the framed picture with him.

His mother is younger in the picture, but more tired. Frank knows it was a bad year. His parents divorced the year before that Christmas, and she was alone for the first time in over fifteen years with a son who was always either in the principal's office or in the hospital. But the smile on her face, looking at Frank, is beautiful.

"Of you." Gerard turns to look at him.

"Of course."

Gerard turns back to the photograph, the tightness in his mouth lessening. "That's good. Your mother Before...well. She was different."

Frank doesn't want to know more about that mother. She doesn't seem to belong to him, and he doesn't want to think about him existing and growing up without his mother now. It seems that they weren't fated like that. He doesn't want to think about it.

Gerard glances around his room again, like he's looking for something in particular. "So you and Jenny..."

"Um, yeah, that didn't really work out. Just a high school thing, you know?" Frank tries to say it as casually as he can while also managing to not invite anymore questions.

"Oh," Gerard says, and that's it. Frank's not sure what he expected, not like, a ticker tape parade for his break up, but something more than just "oh".

"I'm kind of tired," Frank says, which isn't a lie. He makes a side-eyed glance towards the bed which he knows Gerard sees.

"Oh, right, of course you are." Gerard takes a step towards the door with his hands clasped behind his back. Frank knows he should be a good host and show Gerard the way out and thank him for coming, but right now he can barely think past crawling into the bed and pressing his face against the cool pillowcase. He waits to hear the door of the bedroom shut behind Gerard but instead there is pause and then the mattress dips next to him.

Frank knows that Gerard is testing the limits of how close Frank will let him. He's always testing, with the way he touches Frank and the way he talks about Before. But right now, Frank is so glad for that weight on the mattress next to him that he doesn't care. Instead he closes his eyes and listens to Gerard's steady breaths next to him and is out immediately.

He wakes up when his mother comes home from work and brings him his bottle of chilled Gatorade. The bed beside him is empty, but the spot is still warm and when his mother asks if he's feeling better he says yes. It isn't a lie.

His mom lifts the whole "sort-of-grounded" thing a couple of days later, probably just glad Frank doesn't have pneumonia again. Christmas would be a real downer if he spent it in the hospital again.

Sleeping doesn't get a whole lot easier. It's not always the same feeling of being chased; sometimes it's just vague impressions of places he's never seen before, and the emotions he associated with them in another life. Frank wraps the scarf Gerard left him months ago (he should have known it was from Gerard, it's so obvious) around his wrist and it helps.

It's almost finals, so he has plenty of studying to do while he's not sleeping, and even though he's exhausted when he actually has to take the tests, he still knows enough that he doesn't think he'll have to hide his report card when it comes.

And then it's finally winter break, and like, usually it's pretty boring, since Bob goes back to Chicago and Ray always goes down to Florida for family stuff and Frank is stuck in Jersey, but now he can go bug Gerard.

Not that Gerard, minds, of course. "Frank!" he says, opening the door to him again, like he can't believe Frank's there. Again. Even though Frank's been going over there about every day for a week.

Frank just smiles and tries not to roll his eyes fondly. "You ready to go?"

Gerard shifts a little in the doorway. "Uhm. I think so. Let me grab my coat."

Frank slips inside and closes the door behind him while Gerard pulls on his huge peacoat. It's this really amazing, military cut coat with thick brass buttons and real embroidery, not like one of those knock-offs he sees kids at school trying to pull off sometimes. Gerard wraps his long, thick scarf around his face and Frank grins into the old scarf he's already got tucked around his face and into his jacket.

"You're sure your mom doesn't mind us taking her car?" He asks hesitantly as he steps out and locks the door behind him.

"Nah, I asked her yesterday. It's totally cool."

Gerard doesn't seem too convinced, but he follows him back over to the street and into his mom's car, sitting almost delicately in the passenger seat, like he's afraid it's going to break if he leans back against it.

"You nervous, Gee?"

"Oh, uhm," he starts, so yes, yes he is. "No. Not at all."

"It might be kind of crowded, since it's almost Christmas," Frank warns him as he pulls out into traffic. "But it'll be cool. Have you ever been to a Best Buy before?"

Gerard shakes his head, and he's acting like a skittish animal being taken to the vet, so Frank reaches over and pats his shoulder. "It's gonna be awesome."

And Frank was right; It's totally awesome and totally packed. He almost reaches for Gerard's hand to lead him through the crowd, but ends up just nodding his head. "Come on, I want to grab mom's movies before we really start looking around."

Gerard stays close behind him as he navigates through the crowd. He's pale and staring at everybody and everything that they pass, but he seems more fascinated than scared.

"What's that?" he asks, pointing towards the electronics department.

Frank peers around him to see where he's pointing. "Those are the cameras."

Gerard looks at him like he's crazy. "They're so small!"

"Yeah, they make them pretty small nowadays." When he glances back Gerard's still staring at them. "Look, why don't you go over there and poke around, and I'll be there in a sec."

Gerard shakes his head. "Oh, no, I don't –"

Frank smiles and pushes him gently in that direction. "I'll be right behind you."

When he finally grabs the last of his mom's movies and makes it over there, Gerard's just standing at the display and staring at all of the tiny little digital cameras. He seems really relieved when Frank shows up, pressing a gentle hand against his back.

"See anything you like?" Frank asks.

Gerard just sort of blinks at them. "You don't even need film. It's just there. It's just - they're all so..."

"Yeah," Frank agrees. "Come on, let's go look at the video games."

"Okay," Gerard says, falling in step behind him.

Frank knows Gerard doesn't have an X-box or anything, and he's sure he would've noticed even like a Nintendo 64 or a Gamecube, but that doesn't stop Gerard from picking up the different games on the shelves and looking at the pictures on the boxes.

"They look so real," Gerard says, slightly awed.

"Yeah, the graphics on that one are pretty sweet. Have you ever played...anything?" he asks.

"Mikey really liked Pong," Gerard says, putting the box back on the shelf. "But after....I think I put the Atari up in the attic."

Later Frank's sprawled on Gerard's living room floor with Best Buy bags strewn across the carpet and the instructions for the DVR unfolded in his lap and the contents of the box laid out around him. Gerard comes in from the kitchen with two mugs of coffee and sits down next to him.

"Making any sense?" he asks, pushing one of the mugs closer to Frank's knee. Frank takes a sip from it distractedly as he keeps reading the tiny text.

"I think so. Eventually. Why'd you never switch over from VHS before this?" he asks, frowning at a passage about cables.

Gerard shrugged. "I totally got screwed over on the whole Betamax debacle a while back. I like to wait until new technology settles a bit."

"Well, you're going to love this. You'll even be able to pause your soaps to take a coffee break."

Gerard speaks with a hushed reverence, "Amazing."

"And you won't have to miss Survivor or anything because of the moon, you can just record it and watch it in the morning."

Gerard eyes the remote and the new box under his TV like they're both made of solid gold. Frank's actually a little jealous for a second, but then Gerard turns to him and just smiles at him. "Thank you, Frankie."

Frank can feel his cheeks starting to heat up, which is totally stupid, but he can't do anything about it except hope that Gerard doesn't notice. "No problem. Like, Merry Christmas, you know?" Not that it's much of a gift, since Gerard bought it, but he only did because Frank promised to set it up for him.

"Oh! Right, um. Wait here for just one second?" Gerard says, already half out of the room.

When he comes back in the room he has this large, thin white square in his hands. He sits back down next to Frank and hands it over. "Here. Merry Christmas."

Frank kind of stares at him because why is he giving him a big sheet of paper but then, oh – it's a record. But not in a regular printed sleeve. He tips the sleeve until the record slides out into his palm, and then he's pretty sure he stops breathing there for a second.

"Gerard, what the shit, are you – are you serious?" he manages. It's a fucking label press test edition of the Ramones' first album. A piece of paper falls out of the sleeve as well, and he can see the date April 5, 1976 scrawled in the top corner. It's a setlist. Fucking original album setlist.

Gerard nods and rubs at the back of his neck. "Yeah, uhm. I worked in London for a while, at this record company, just, you know, little stuff. I was friends with some of the guys who worked there and when I left they gave me one. I thought you might like it."

Frank runs his fingers over the words Joni is a punk etched in dead wax on the B-Side. "Gerard, this is incredible. I don't – I. Just. Wow, thank you."

Gerard smiles like it's nothing. "You're welcome."

"I made you buy your present," Frank says guiltily.

"But you set it up for me, and you'll come over and watch it with me, right?" Gerard asks.

"Well, yeah, if you want."

And then Gerard's beaming at him, like Frank coming over to mooch on his DVR is the best present ever, and Frank's stomach does this weird swoopy thing and he has to look away.

*

He goes out with Ray and Bob on Saturday after New Year's, but keeps it pretty low key. He only takes a few hits off the bong being passed around. Ray is still giving him worried looks, and doesn't need weird high dreams on top of everything else.

"Hey, Bobert," he says, while Ray's going to get another beer. "I got a thing tomorrow. Is it cool if I tell my ma I'm staying with you?"

"You're not gonna get yourself killed?" Bob asks.

"No, I'm not going to get killed. You're worse than Toro."

"I don't want your mom to get mad at me." Bob shrugs.

"She won't, I'll be at school Monday, I promise."

"You better. You know they get pissed if you miss the first day back after the break."

Frank practically starts counting the hours. He wants to go over to Gerard's before the full moon, especially when the itchy feeling under his skin starts up again on Friday, but he actually is busy with over-the-holiday-homework stuff, and his friends want to hang out now that he isn't semi-grounded anymore.

He lasts all the way until three o'clock on Sunday afternoon. The paper said the sun wouldn't set until around six, but he doesn't think Gerard will mind if he gets there a little early. "I'll text you when I get to school tomorrow," he says, kissing his mom on the cheek and grabbing his backpack.

"Okay, Frankie, tell Mrs. Bryar hi for me."

Frank cringes. He hates lying to her. "Bye mom!"

When he gets to Gerard's, he doesn't even have to knock on the door before it's open. Gerard is just wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants and Frank's mouth goes dry. "Hey, I know I'm early but-"

"No, it's fine. I never get much done on the day of the moon anyway," Gerard says, closing the door behind Frank.

"Do you get uh," turned on by everything, "that itchy feeling, too? Or is it just cause I'm new?" Frank drops his bag in the living room and looks around.

"It never really goes away, but I've gone through a lot of moons and it's mostly manageable."

"Cool," Frank says, scratching at the back of his neck. "...I don't suppose I get to go outside tonight?"

Gerard laughs at that, and it must be the first time Frank's heard it, because it's his new favorite sound. "No, not for a while yet. Maybe by the fall."

Frank's a little disappointed, but when he remembers his dreams, he's comforted by the thought of Gerard's basement.

It's not a comfortable afternoon. Frank isn't sure how Gerard can seem to keep it together. Only a little while to go and Frank can't sit still for more than a few seconds. It's taking most of his concentration not to rub up all over everything in the house, let alone Gerard. God, those stupid sweatpants with that stupid low waistband and --

"Frank?" Gerard asks, snapping Frank out of his staring fit. "You want to head on downstairs?" He's still sipping at his coffee in the old cracked mug, and Frank watches his lips on the rim.

"Uhm, yeah. Sure. Yeah," he mumbles. Frank grabs his backpack and follows Gerard down the stairs to the basement.

"You nervous?" Gerard asks casually as he pulls the huge lock on the door into place. As soon as the cogs lock down Frank can feel the wolf inside him riling up in anger. He hates being locked up, he's not supposed to be locked up, this is wrong, he needs to get out now -- and before he knows it Gerard's hand is on his chest holding him back against the wall. He's pretty sure his teeth are bared.

"Frank," Gerard says, his eyebrows furrowing and his fingertips pressed firmly against Frank's twitching chest. It's authoritative and unlike his usual gentle tone, and it makes Frank want to back down and let him do whatever he wants to him, right now, and it makes him want to push back against him just to see what he'll do to make him stop.

He's about to push forward again make me stop make me stop when Gerard shifts his hand around to the back of the neck and half-pulls him down the stairs. The moon's almost up, and Frank can already feel his insides pulling against one another. Things are starting to blur, and there's an echo of a cramp in his muscles that grows more painful with every heartbeat.

"Hold still, Frankie, just one second," Gerard says soothingly, and in a flash he's pulling Frank's shirt over his head. His hands are at the waist of Frank's jeans before Frank realizes what he's doing. Gnah. He can't even help it when he bucks into Gerard's hands, and Gerard's not even touching him.

"Don't want you to ruin another pair of clothes, Frankie, hold on just a little bit longer, don't freak out, just ignore the window and focus on me, okay?" he says as his fingers work at the buttons on his fly. By this time Frank's got his face pressed up against the crook of Gerard's neck and shoulder, and he can tell that Gerard is breathing heavily and sweating.

The moon is down and Frank's knees go out. God, it hurts so fucking bad. He just moans as Gerard helps him to the ground. He's pretty sure that his pants are gone too, but he can't even care because his back is arching and everything is throbbing and the only thing he can focus on as the change comes is that Gerard's hand is still on the side of his face, wiping away the hair and the sweat (and maybe a few tears, although he's pretty sure he won't admit to that later).

And then it's over and it's another full moon and there are two wolves in the basement.

***

Frank the wolf is angry again, but more at the door than at Gerard, either because he knows Gerard now or remembers last month, knows Gerard is more dominant. So he snarls and throws himself against the door once, twice, but it holds firm.

Gerard waits at the bottom of the stairs. He could force Frank back down, but the footing would be unsteady, and he doesn't want to have to assert himself unless he has to. It doesn't matter, in the end, because Frank comes plodding back down the stairs, hackles raised, but he avoids Gerard's eyes.

Gerard butts his head against Frank's side, attempting to prompt some play to burn off Frank's energy and distract him. Frank turns his head back then, wary, but he does look Gerard in the eye then, and his stance relaxes. Gerard's tail begins wagging, and he butts Frank again, but this time, Frank pushes back.

His concept of time while he's a wolf is vague at best, but their play lasts for a long while, Frank's anxious energy versus Gerard's glee at someone to play with again. At playing with Frank again. Eventually though, they curl up together on the torn cushions, and Gerard's tail thumps against the fabric until he finally falls asleep.

He's awakened just before sunrise by Frank's whines and whimpers. He's still next to Gerard, but he can feel the change coming. Gerard inches closer, trying to soothe him. If he had words, he'd tell Frank not to fight it, to just let it happen, but he can't.

Soon enough, though, he's whispering comforting words in Frank's ear as he rubs his hand up and down Frank's arm. Frank's still twitching it out, his human eyes bleary and sweat covering his temples and slicking his hair. When it looks like he's finally past the worst of it, Gerard stands up and heads over to the linen closet where Frank's backpack is stashed. He grabs his discarded pair of jeans off of the floor (some errant play slashed up one of the legs pretty bad, but they're still wearable for now) and pulls them up over his hips. When he turns around from the linen closet, Frank is staring. Like really staring. Not even attempting to mask it. He's probably too tired to pretend.

Gerard's hand clenches a little bit tighter around the strap of the backpack.

He kneels next to Frank and starts pulling out the parts to his uniform -- pants, dress shoes, socks, boxers, undershirt, shirt, tie, blazer, jeez, he does not miss having to dress in so many layers, and at least now Frank only has to wear this stuff for school. Before they had to wear about double this stuff all the freakin' time -- while Frank sort of languidly scratches his fingers through his hair and against his scalp. And stares.

"Here, you take these. You want a shower?" he asks Frank, moving the neat little pile of clothing closer to him and making sure to focus on his face and nothing else. Frank sort of half-nods and hums a little bit so Gerard will take this as a yes.

"Okay, you take these, I'll go turn the shower on for you. I'll get breakfast started so you won't be late for school, okay?" God, he feels like a mother, but he's pretty sure if he just left Frank here to his own devices, he'd curl up in the pile of cushions in the corner and sleep away the day. And Gerard is not going to get Frank in trouble again over this. Him being grounded once before sucked enough to last him a good while.

He grabs Frank's wrist, pulls him to his feet, and presses the clothes against his chest until Frank raises his arms to carry them.

 

The shower in the house is old but sort of neat. There are claw feet on the tub and a big brass looking ring around the top for the shower curtain. The faucet is one of those old time head showers with the curved ceramic bits. It's nicer than any tub Gerard had Before and it still works fine, so he doesn't mind how long it takes to warm up or how loud it can be sometimes when the pipes are cold.

He sort of hated leaving Frank in there alone, but he is pretty sure staying and hanging out while Frank stood under the hot water and got the soreness from last night out of his bones would put him pretty high on the creepy meter, and he's been trying harder lately to avoid that.

It's eggs this morning, with lots of pepper, and he's just got them plated up with some nice toast and butter when he can hear the shower shut off in the other room. It's only a few minutes later when Frank comes into the kitchen, still barefoot but dressed in his uniform, hair mussed and wet and tie slack around his neck. Gerard wants to press him against the counter right there, maybe run his finger right past the bit of skin he can see showing at the hem of his pants and rucked up shirt, but instead he smiles and passes Frank a plate.

"I can make more," Gerard says, as Frank falls on the plate. "I've got some bacon in the fridge, too."

"'M vgtrin," Frank says around his fork, still focused on the food.

"...huh?" Gerard asks, working on his own plate at a steady, if slower, pace.

Frank swallows down and reaches for his glass of juice. "I'm a vegetarian. No pig bacon for me."

Gerard stares. "...Is there another kind of bacon?" He's seen a lot of weird shit over the past century, but bacon has always been bacon.

"They make some out of soy, it's good."

Whatever face Gerard makes at that makes Frank laugh, high and fast and then he's just smiling at Gerard. He gets that weird swooping feeling in his chest. He just wants to reach out and hold Frank's hand across the table. It's cheesy but Gerard just wants to touch him. He doesn't think Frank would mind if he did, not with the way he was looking at Gerard earlier, but now is just not the time.

He wants it to be though.

"Do you want more?" Gerard asks, nodding to Frank's empty plate.

Frank's eyes shoot to the clock. "I should get going soon, but could I get some toast for the road?"

"Of course." Gerard stands quickly, trying to keep his hands and mind busy as Frank pulls on his shoes and grabs his backpack.

"Do you have everything?" Gerard asks, wrapping the toast up in a paper towel.

"Yeah." Frank nods, slinging the pack over his shoulder. "So, uh, I'll see you later?"

Gerard smiles. "Yeah, I'll be here. Try to stay out of trouble."

Frank shifts on his feet, his fingers twitching at his side. "I'll try."

"Okay. Um, have fun at school," Gerard says, holding out the toast, but Frank doesn't take it. Instead, he steps forward and presses his lips against Gerard's, quick and dry. Gerard doesn't have a chance to react before Frank pulls back, takes the toast and is out the door.

He's pretty sure he heard a "thanksbye" but it could have just been the sound of the door slamming shut behind him.

He pauses and waits as the silence of the house settles back around him, almost like Frank was never there. But he was there. And he came back. And he kissed him. Gerard raises his fingers to his lips and presses gently against the skin.

He finishes cleaning up the kitchen and then heads into the bathroom to take a shower. It's still damp from when Frank was in there earlier and condensation drips down the small, inset window and over the pipes. It smells like Gerard's shampoo and soap and, if he breathes deeply enough, it smells like Frank, and Gerard lasts only a couple of minutes standing under the hot water before he's got his hand on his dick. Fuck, Frank. He came back.

Frank takes the steps one, two at a time until his shoes hit the concrete and he's practically speed-walking away from Gerard's house towards the school.

Ray and Bob are hanging around the outside gates when he arrives. "So, Romeo," Bob smirks, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels, "you going to tell us who the new girl is?"

"There's no new girl," Frank mumbles.

"Oh come on, dude, you're so red right now your ears are pink. It's cool that you're getting some, or whatever, but you can at least keep us in the loop."

Frank can feel the heat radiating out from his cheeks. "There's no girl. And. I'm not blushing, I just was late so I had to run most of the way here." He shoves the toast in his mouth and chews loudly.

"Didn't even have time for breakfast," he says around the food. Bob opens his mouth to protest, but Frank just smiles and slides around him to head on in towards the school. He can hear Ray placating Bob behind him and yeah, it's not really fair that he's keeping them in the dark and making them cover for him too, but what in the hell is he supposed to tell them? He's still figuring this shit out himself.

It's a long, agonizing day. School sucks enough on a normal day, but Frank is exhausted and still sore and on edge and every time Ray or Bob look at them he feels like he's going to get grilled.

He tries to make it look like he's really concentrating on his schoolwork by staring at the chalkboards and teachers and not his friends (he really should be concentrating anyway, he's got a huge history test coming up next week and if he fails it he is fucked) but after a while he just zones out and ends up watching their lips move and dreaming about Gerard. About how he kissed him. About how Gerard's face had the most color in it he thinks he's ever seen since they've met. About how he wished he would have pressed harder, forward, and waited until Gerard pressed back.

The bell rings and Frank is so startled he jerks a little. He looks down at his note paper, and there isn't a single legible word to be read, just mindless scribbles and unintelligible marks where his pen bled through the paper. He can hear Bob cough next to him, and when he looks over Bob looks pointedly at his failed notes, then up at his face, and frowns.

Frank is going to have to do some serious damage control soon. But right now the school day is over and he is free and he manages a mumbled 'Bye' to Ray and Bob before he's hurrying out of the school and towards his house.

He pauses when he gets to the end of the street. Should he go home, or to Gerard's? Would it be too soon? He doesn't want to seem too clingy. Although Gerard probably wouldn't mind clingy - Gerard's been so clingy he's been clingy through a hundred years of time until he came back, but. He doesn't know. He's never kissed a boy before, let alone someone like Gerard, and.

If they end up taking this to the next level, and Gerard realizes that he's not the Frank from Before, that they're too different, and that waiting wasn't worth it...Frank's not sure what he'll do.

He slows down almost to a crawl when he's passing Gerard's house. Instead, though, he keeps walking the sidewalk until he's hopping up the stairs to his own front porch. Might as well let his mother know he's alive before he goes back over there, right? His friends are already distrusting him, might as well not make things worse with everyone.

"So how was school?" his mom asks over dinner.

"Long," Frank says, spooning more pasta on to his plate.

He can feel her staring at him. "Did you get any sleep last night?"

"Yeah, I just. It was a long day, you know."

"Mondays can be rough," she says, smiling at him in that mom way.

Frank nods, like the day of the week is why he's so tired.

"Oh, I talked to your grandmother today. I was thinking we might go stay with her in a couple of weeks, when you have that long weekend."

Frank bobs his head in agreement. He doesn't really have a choice in the matter, but he likes his grandma and all the old shit in her house.

After dinner he helps with the dishes and then heads upstairs for another shower. His muscles are still pretty sore. He just wants to stand under the hot water for half an hour and then crawl into bed. His bathtub might not be as awesome as Gerard's, but he feels less weird about jerking off in it.

Not that it stopped him this morning, but nothing was going to stop him this morning. He'd still been riding the wave of the wolf thing, and the seeing Gerard naked part, and it was either rub one out in the shower or rub himself all over Gerard in the kitchen.

Frank rolls his neck under the spray and lets one hand move towards his dick. He half wishes he had made a move on Gerard. The eggs were good and all, but he's pretty sure sex would have been better. Frank twists his hand around his cock and wonders about Gerard, tries to imagine touching him like this. He doesn't have much experience with other dudes' dicks, outside of the locker room and some porn. Gerard's probably isn't cut, since he's like, one hundred and ten. He should ask when Gerard's birthday is.

Oh, fuck . Frank wonders how long it's been since Gerard last had sex. Ninety years is a long ass time, he has to have done it between then and now, but fuck, Frank doesn't like that idea. It should weird him out how much he doesn't like that idea, but mostly he's just hoping Gerard has been celibate the whole time. He probably wouldn't be judging Frank's weak moves this morning if so. And a dude who hasn't had sex in ninety years won't mind if it takes Frank a while to figure out how to give a blow job. That image is enough to make Frank come against the tiles.

Between the orgasm and the heat of the water, Frank barely has the energy to pull on a pair of sweatpants before falling into bed. It's a whole lot easier to be confident about everything in the hot shower; it gets more difficult alone in his bed. But Frank manages to fall asleep before all of the niggling voices come back.

The next few days at school are better. Frank gets slammed with a couple of huge projects and a test he completely forgot to study for, but right about when Frank is about to just fuck it and mark C for all of the answers Bob kicks his foot when the teacher isn't looking. When Frank glances up Bob is looking the other way but his test is off to the side of his desk where Frank can see it. Frank knows they're good, then, if Bob still has his back. He makes sure to be more of a little shit to Ray and Bob like they're used to, laugh louder, tease Bob more, just so they think everything is okay. He hates pretending but it's better than them looking at him out of the corner of their eyes like he's about to break.

*

Jenny's been steadily avoiding him (and even switched to the other side of the room in science class) ever since that day in the cafeteria. Whenever he sees her he gets this horrible guilty twist in his stomach but doesn't know what to do about it. He settles for avoiding eye contact whenever possible.

On Tuesday she wanders over after class while he's still packing up his backpack. He has to try hard not to fumble his textbook to the floor he's so surprised.

"Hey, Frank," she says, a little shortly. "Look, so – I've started dating Jason. I just. Thought that you should know." She looks at him, waiting, like she's trying hard to gauge his reaction.

Frank smiles at her, and it's genuine. "That's great, Jenny."

She pauses. "Okay?"

He nods. "Okay."

She looks at him a little oddly and then moves to walk back towards the front of the class, but Frank jerks forward a little. Now or never.

"Hey, Jenny-"

She spins quickly, like she was waiting for him to speak up. "Yeah?"

"I'm – I'm sorry I was a dick to you, before."

She nods. "Okay."

"I didn't cheat on you," he says. She doesn't really react but he can see the grip on her textbook lessen.

"Really?" she asks, her voice even.

"Really," he says honestly. "I was kind of messed up and I freaked out but – but it wasn't you. But I'm sorry I was a dick."

"You were a dick."

"Yeah, I know." He huffs out a laugh.

"Okay, well. As long as you know that. Thanks."

There's a slight pause and then she starts to move back towards the front door. Frank goes back to packing up his backpack, but when he glances another look up she's still standing there, half in and out of the doorway.

"Frank – listen. Are you okay? If you need someone to talk to, I'm here."

Frank thinks about telling her, for a brief, tiny moment, but he doesn't even know where to start. There's nowhere to start, but he thinks of Gerard and it feels okay.

"Thanks. I'll be okay." He's not lying.

She smiles a little at him. "Okay. Bye Frank."

And then she's gone and the bell rings and he's late for class.

*

Between school and homework (he has to pull an all-nighter to write a paper that turns out pretty okay but it means he's pretty much wiped the whole rest of the day and night) and hanging out with the guys, he doesn't get a chance to sneak back over to Gerard's until that Thursday. His mom is out at some dinner thing, and she gave him twenty bucks for a pizza and the night to himself. He waits about thirty seconds after her tires crunch on the grate at the end of the driveway before he's practically skipping down the stairs.

Every time Gerard opens the door to Frank, he gets this look on his face. It's just. It's a little overwhelming and completely addicting and Frank's not used to someone looking at him like he hung the moon (maybe it's hung the sun, with werewolves; he's pretty sure they wouldn't be delighted by someone putting the moon in the sky) but. It's hard not to get caught up in Gerard's weird little world and crazy old house and sad eyes.

When Gerard opens the door this time, though, there's something else in his look, and. Oh. Oh. Frank was a little worried about what Gerard's reaction was going to be after his smooth moves Monday morning, but. Well, it's pretty obvious Gerard's glad he came back.

"Hey," Frank says.

"Hi," Gerard says, a little breathless. His hand on the door frame is gripping it so hard his knuckles are white.

"Uhm, so, I was just --" Frank starts, but then Gerard's reaching out for him and pulling him into the house and the door isn't even shut all of the way before they're pressed together up against the wall. Frank can feel the wood paneling against his back through the thin fabric of his t-shirt and Gerard's fingers underneath the hem on the skin of his waist. They're not kissing but Gerard's face is so close Frank can feel the breaths on his cheek.

"Hey," Frank says again, smiling.

"Hi," Gerard says, but instead of smiling he looks like he's concentrating really hard. There's a weird little line between his eyebrows, and then he's leaning in and pressing his lips to Frank's. It is awesome but it is also far too hesitant for Frank's tastes. He's over that part. He presses back and opens his mouth, and when Gerard's hand moves farther up under his shirt Frank moves his hand up to the back of Gerard's neck to pull him in closer.

It is so different than the couple of times he made out with Jenny in the smoker's alley behind the school or on her dad's couch. Gerard tastes like cigarettes, yeah, but that's about as close as they get.

Eventually, though, Frank has to pull back to breathe. Gerard's hair is all rucked up and his face is flushed and there's spit on his lip. It's probably the most action he's gotten in about ninety years. Frank has to bite his lip so he won't laugh from the feeling pushing against his chest right then.

"Do you want dinner?" Gerard asks, "I should probably have asked you that before, but, uhm, well, I'm sorry, I should have asked --" He seems to forget that his hand is still splayed across Frank's back.

Frank just smiles and runs his hand through Gerard's hair to calm it down a little. "Dinner sounds awesome. My mom gave me money for a pizza, if you haven't cooked anything yet."

"Pizza would be lovely." Of course Gerard would say pizza would be lovely. Frank gives him a little peck on the lips before he extracts himself (and straightens his shirt back out) to head into the kitchen to call the pizza parlor. Gerard's a gypsy-cursed werewolf who's been waiting for Frank to be born again for almost a hundred years and he says things like pizza would be lovely. Frank is in love with such a weirdo.

In love. His breath hitches a little at the realization of what that pushing inside his chest must be, oh, oh, but he tries not to think about it as he methodically scrolls through his phone's contact list for the pizza parlor. Gerard brushes past him and rests his hand on the back of Frank's neck only momentarily before he heads into the kitchen to start pulling out plates and glasses, but Frank doesn't look up.

The pizza parlor finally answers and the dude on the other end apathetically recites off the days' specials, sounding just about as bored as he always does. Frank's heard them all a million times, though, so he doesn't pay attention.

"One large, please. Extra sauce and extra cheese," Frank says.

"And that's 672 Harrison, Mr. Iero?" the guy asks.

"Uh, actually at 657 Harrison tonight," Frank answers. The pizza guy isn't going to tell his mom or anything, but Frank still twitches a little.

"It'll be about half an hour," the kid says.

"Okay, thanks," Frank says before hitting END.

He wanders into the kitchen to get Gerard, who's set like, utensils for pizza like Frank's mom does sometimes, even though only weird people eat pizza with a fork. But Gerard is a very weird person, and Frank likes it that way.

"Hey, everything all set?" Gerard asks. He's smiling at Frank in that way that would have totally freaked him out a few weeks ago, but now it just makes Frank feel like he's going to throw up in the most awesome way possible and smile back.

"Yeah, it'll be like half an hour, so-" Frank is cut off by Gerard pinning him against the wall and covering Frank's mouth with his.

He clings to Gerard almost as hard as Gerard is clinging to him, fingers tangling in shirts and hair. Gerard's skin is hot under Frank's hand when he tries to pull Gerard even closer. It's probably physically impossible at this point but he just doesn't care, not when Gerard is biting his lip like that.

This is the best plan, the making out thing. It's awesome and Frank never wants it to stop, except... He pulls his head back so he can breathe for a second and Gerard just moves his lips to Frank's jaw, kissing the few patches of stubble that result when Frank hasn't shaved since Monday. (Gerard had told him being a werewolf didn't mean he could suddenly grow a sweet mustache, but he had to try.)

"Gerard, Gee, wait a second we gotta stop," Frank pants.

And suddenly Gerard is like, six feet away, hands shoved in his pockets with the big nervous eyes. "Sorry, I shouldn't have-"

"Gerard," Frank cuts him off. "You should have, but the light switch is digging into my spine. You have a couch, right?"

All of the tension melts out of Gerard's shoulders. "Two, actually."

"Well then." Frank grins at him and tries for something like a come hither-y look as he backs out the doorway and into the living room.

He sort of trips over the ottoman, and falls onto the couch. It's a good thing that Gerard's been in love with him for a century and (probably) won't dump him for looking like a jackass.

The couch is one of those old horsehair couches so Frank slides a little bit back towards the edge, like he's on silk sheets. It takes a lot not to giggle at how ridiculous he must look trying to hoist himself back up on this thing. Gerard doesn't seem to mind, though, as he climbs up over Frank and plants himself on his hips and just smiles. He, apparently, is used to slippery horsehair couches. Frank can only hope that someday he will be too.

Then it's back to making out, but this time it is even better because Gerard is on top of him and thrusting a little bit and yeah. It's awesome. Slippery horsehair couches are awesome for thrusting a little bit. Frank should get one of these things. But Frank didn't look up all of that internet porn just to make out on the couch, so, with a little bit of maneuvering he manages to push Gerard off of his mouth and around enough until he can be on top.

He's already got two of the buttons of Gerard's fly open before Gerard's hands grab his wrists to stop him.

"Frank, what are you, you don't have to --" Gerard pants, his face red. "You really don't--"

"I want to."

"But -"

"I want to." He slides his fingers into the remaining buttons of Gerard's fly and eases them open. Gerard's hands are still on his wrists but he's not holding him back, just holding. He releases him when Frank shifts, runs his hands along the waist of Gerard's jeans, and then quickly pulls the denim down until it's pooling around his knees.

"Boxers, huh," Frank jokes as he leans down, resting his arms on Gerard's thighs. "I was a little worried it'd be some old long woolen underwear shit with like eight panels and footies." He looks up at Gerard and smiles but Gerard looks terrified. Like, absolutely terrified, which is a little weird because Frank's pretty sure that Gerard's the one getting a blow job while Frank sucks a cock for the first time, but. He can't help but feel a kick at the little bit of power he feels when he sees how nervous Gerard is.

"Hey. Hey, Gerard," he says, maintaining eye contact. Gerard looks pretty out of it and flushed, but he's already almost completely hard in his boxers so Frank knows it's not that he's not into this. He squeezes his hands on Gerard's thighs and leans up to capture his mouth in a quick, reassuring kiss.

Gerard's still staring at him with that look on his face, that look he gets whenever he opens the door and Frank's there, and instead of dealing with that or the nervousness that's starting to pool in his gut (man, he hopes he doesn't suck at this; well, he's going to suck but hopefully it's not suck bad it's suck -- right, where was he, right, boxers down to join the jeans around Gerard's knees, right, right--) he just sort of...goes for it.

It's a little awkward because hey! He's never really done this before, and he's pretty sure the people he watched in porn were pretty used to having cocks in their throats, and, well, he's not, and it's a little weird and he's trying to remember everything the websites said about covering his teeth and using enough spit and tongue motions and special moves but by the sounds Gerard's making it doesn't seem like he has anything to worry about. Frank moves one of his hands from its grip on Gerard's thigh up to the base of his cock to try and make up for the fact that he can't really go that far down. He starts moving in a rhythm, up and down, up and down, and Gerard's hips are starting to buck along with him and somewhere along the way one of Gerard's hands ends up in Frank's hair, not pushing, just there, his fingernails running up and down on the crown of his head, and just when Frank is starting to think that maybe he is not doing too bad at this whole blow job thing Gerard's grip tightens in his hair and pulls him off his cock.

"What --" he starts, trying to push forward again, but Gerard just groans and comes and. Yeah. There's come on his face. He feels kind of dirty and awesome. He grins up at Gerard and Gerard looks like somebody slapped him around the face a little, but mostly in a good way. A good, hot, sweaty way.

Frank's cock is pressing against the zipper and it hurts a little but not in an entirely awful way. Still, he can think of about fourteen different things that would be better at this moment, especially with Gerard sitting there with his pants around his ankles. He quickly undoes his own pants, but not too quickly - he's seen Something About Mary - and groans a little when the pressure lets up and he shoves his jeans down to his knees.

The noise catches Gerard's attention and he's hauling Frank up onto his lap. It's an awkward angle, with neither of them able to spread their legs as much as Frank would like, but he's able to press down on Gerard's thigh and he rubs his dick a little there as Gerard starts kissing him again. Frank's lips are feeling a little bruised, but he's not going to push Gerard away, he couldn't.

Gerard doesn't seem to care at all about the come on Frank's face. He just puts his hands right in it, and that's kind of gross, but apparently Frank's kind of into that, because he moans into Gerard's mouth and grabs one of those hands, pulling it desperately down to his dick.

And that's it, Frank's been waiting what feels like half his life to get someone else's hand on his dick and now Gerard's is and he can't even get a good grip before Frank is spilling over his fingers and onto Gerard's hip.

He slumps forward, burying his face into Gerard's neck. Gerard wraps his clean hand around Frank's back as he wipes his hand off on the side of his shirt before it moves up to pet Frank's hair. Frank nuzzles Gerard a bit as he catches his breath. He just got laid and it was awesome.

"Not bad, right? How do I measure up?" Frank sits back and grins as he pulls the hem of his shirt up to wipe away at the mess on his cheek. It's not completely dry yet, but he still scrubs a little.

"To what?" Gerard asks. He looks a little ridiculous with his hair still sticking up all over and his eyes blown wide.

"To Before. I mean, I'm sure my skills are a little rusty after about a hundred years of not practicing, ha, but a blowjob is a--"

"We never did that before."

Frank pauses from wiping his face (and the bit on his neck) and looks up. "What?"

"We never did that. Uhm. Before."

"Ever?"

"Ever. We didn't really know. Uhm. How. There weren't really, uhm. A whole lot of people. We could ask about stuff." No wonder Gerard looked so terrified. And still looks a little freaked.

Frank just grins and rolls off Gerard just enough that he can pull Gerard's boxers and jeans back up around his waist and straighten himself out, too. He leans over Gerard and moves a few pieces of hair off of his face.

"So...That was pretty much your best blow job ever, then." He can't help it if he sounds a little smug.

Gerard finally smiles back. "Yup."

The doorbell rings. Frank lightly smacks the side of Gerard's face and goes to crawl off of him towards the door, digging the twenty dollars out of his back pocket as he does so. "I'll get the pizza, you clean yourself up."

He feels so happy inside he almost skips to the door. They're going to have pizza, and then they're going to make out some more, and then maybe Gerard will want to take the opportunity to catch up on some seriously lost time, and -- he yanks the front door open, money in hand, and freezes.

His mother is standing on the porch, her hand still on the doorbell, and she is furious. He is at a stranger's house with sex hair and a flushed face and come on his shirt, and he can already feel the cold sweat from his palms on the twenty dollar bill clenched tightly in his hand.

"Mom," Frank squeaks.

"Frank." Her voice is that cold and steely tone that makes Frank want to wet his pants. It'd be better if she was just yelling, but Frank's pretty sure she'll get to that eventually, because he is fucked. "You'll never guess who I ran into at the restaurant."

Frank swallows. It's probably a rhetorical question.

"Mr. and Mrs. Bryar were waiting for a table, and they're such nice people, I had to thank them for letting you stay overnight on Sunday."

Oh god oh fuck oh shit.

"They didn't seem to have any idea what I was talking about, which I found strange, and then I get a call on my cellphone double checking the address your pizza was going to be delivered to."

"Mom, I-" Frank doesn't know what to say.

"These things combined made me a bit curious, so I canceled my dinner with Jean and Rose. I wish I could have been surprised by an empty house. Not even a note."

"I was just going to have dinner, Mom and-"

"Frank?" Gerard's voice calls from the living room. "Is everything all right?"

When Gerard wanders into the hall he looks really good, and also like a guy who's recently had an orgasm and Frank wants to die. Gerard looks past Frank to Frank's mom and goes white, and that's an accomplishment for a dude who's not super tan to begin with. "Ms...Iero, I-"

Frank's mom is a smart lady, but right now he wishes she kind of weren't, because then she wouldn't put two and two together and come up with "my son is having sex with an older man."

But she is and she can. "Frank, we're leaving. Now."

The tone leaves no room for argument and she has a pretty strong grip on his arm, too, so Frank just turns to Gerard and tries to give him the most reassuring look possible. It can't be very effective since Frank is terrified and absolutely certain he won't be let out of the house until he's fifty, so he just tries to take in as much of Gerard as he can while his mother hisses at him.

"How could you do this to me, Frank? Have I been such a horrible mother that you have to get back at me like this?"

Gerard's pale as a sheet and frozen to the spot and it looks like he's not even seeing Frank, like he's somewhere else entirely. Frank wants to call out to him, but his mom yanks on his wrist so hard he almost stumbles down the steps of Gerard's house, and he has to turn away.

His mother slams their front door shut behind them a lot harder than was probably necessary, but Frank keeps his mouth shut. He is in so much shit and his stomach feels like it's quaking around his knees.

"Mom, listen, I-I. Can explain."

"I'm counting on it," she practically spits.

They're in the kitchen now, her hand still on his arm, before she wheels him around and plants him on the barstool by the counter. Frank tries not to look at the way her hands grip the counter, but it's that or look up and see the look on her face. He keeps his head down.

"Frank. Explain."

She's giving him a chance, here, she's giving him a chance to explain himself and. And the words are stuck. He can't even get a word out, let alone a breath. What the fuck should he say? What can he say? Nothing he could say would make it better and he can't even bring himself to lie. She would know. She would know and it would make things worse.

"I. I, uh. I just," he mumbles, then stops. The silence is awful.

"Frank," his mother says, her voice getting lower as she leans over the counter towards him. "Explain."

Silence. The yelling is about to start, Frank can feel it, and he only wishes he could curl up into a smaller ball on the stool to brace himself more. But instead his mother comes around from behind the counter and stands right in front of him.

"Look at me, Frank."

He keeps his head down. He. He just can't.

"Frank." And her voice is softer. He can hear her knees pop as she crouches down to his eye level. "Frank, look at me."

This time, he does, if only for a second. And...his mother doesn't look angry anymore. She just looks hurt.

"We've been though a lot together, kiddo. A whole lot. I know things haven't been easy and I can't always be around, but. But you can't lie to me and start failing your classes and walking around looking like shit and then turn up in some older stranger's house and think I'll be okay with this," she says. Frank just wrings his hands a little and stares at his knees.

"Did...did he make you do things? Frank-"

"No! No, it wasn't. Not. Not like. Not like that," Frank manages to blurt out. He really doesn't want to be having his conversation.

His mother looks unconvinced, but resigned. She stares at him as if she's waiting for him to confess something. Frank is horribly aware of the dried come still on his shirt. He wants to die.

"I don't want you to see that man ever again, do you hear me? I don't even want you walking on that side of the street-"

"Mom!" Frank says as he looks up, but he knows his mom is having none of it. The hard lines around her mouth are back and any chance he had to skirt out of this is gone.

"Never again. I don't trust him, I don't trust him with you, I don't care who he is or how nice he seems, he's a predator and you have to be careful, Frankie. Never again."

"But-"

"Never. Again. You are going to go upstairs to your room and do your homework. I am taking away your phone, your computer, and your video games. I will drive you to school and pick you up from school, and you're not going anywhere besides school or this house and you are going to study so hard and concentrate so well on your schoolwork I won't hear a thing from your teachers except about how attentive and present you have been in every single one of their classes."

"I. Mom."

"You've lost my trust, Frankie. Absolutely. We'll talk about it again when you show me that you actually want it back. Now go upstairs. And take a shower." Her voice is hard and steady. She outstretches her palm and Frank silently takes the phone from his pocket and places it in her hand. He slinks off the stool and up the stairs.

It's when he's locked himself in the bathroom with the heater on and the shower warming up that he can finally feel himself breathe again. He can hear his mother in his room moving things around and unhooking his computer and his little TV with the video game consoles and lugging them all down the stairs. God. Damn it. He doesn't even care about that shit. How is he going to get to talk to Gerard? Fuck.

He peels off all of his clothes but brings his shirt into the shower with him. He soaks it through and then slops it on the floor, taking the soap and rubbing the stain as hard as he can. He stands under the spray and turns up the water as hot as he can until his skin turns pink. It feels good, if a little too hot to be comfortable, but it's distracting enough for the moment to shut off his brain from every other thing he's fucked up right now.

Frank knows it's pathetic, but when he gets out of the shower and heads back into his room where there's pretty much nothing but a bed and an empty desk, he just crawls straight into bed. He doesn't care that it's probably only eight o'clock, but the thought of going downstairs to face his mom again just makes him tired.

Maybe by tomorrow he'll have thought of some way to explain to his mom. The truth, at least the whole truth, is completely out of the question. She'd never believe him and just get even angrier because he made up some bullshit story.

Fuckin' werewolves, man.

Mostly, Frank just hopes she doesn't call the cops on Gerard.

*

School the next day sucks, and not only because his mom dropped him off in the morning and watched him walk into the building like he'd make a break for it if she wasn't there, though that was a real highlight. Ray and Bob notice something's up, but Frank manages to hold out on answering their questions til later. He should figure out what the hell he's going to tell his mom first so he only has to remember one story at a time.

They definitely know it's something big when they see Frank's mom sitting in her car waiting for him after school. The looks on their faces make Frank kind of glad that he doesn't have his phone anymore and won't have to deal with eighteen phone calls from Ray before he wakes up tomorrow.

But when he gets home that afternoon and goes to his room to sulk, he realizes he's pretty much stuck in the house until Monday, and for the first time ever in his whole life, he wishes it wasn't the weekend.

***

Gerard needs Mikey. He barely got through this last time and then he had his brother by his side, but now Gerard is alone in this stupid house and all he has is the sweatshirt Frank left on the kitchen chair last night.

Last night was bad, but this morning was almost worse. He didn't see Frank walking to school, and Gerard never misses seeing him unless he doesn't go, and Frank getting sick all of a sudden couldn't be a coincidence. He'd been fine the night before. Gerard drove himself crazy all day, coming up with different scenarios of what must have happened to Frank and briefly considered breaking into his house, but he chickened out.

He finds out that it would have been a waste anyway, when he happens to see Frank in the passenger seat of his mom's car after school. He goes by too quickly for Gerard to do a real evaluation of his well being, but he's wearing his uniform and is still breathing, so Gerard can stop worrying about that, at least.

It's one of the worst weekends of Gerard's life. He hasn't seen Frank come out of his house for days and Frank could be dying or dead again and Gerard didn't do anything to stop it. Maybe he's in that house decomposing or maybe his mother burned the body, like last time, like Before, because she said he didn't deserve a funeral, that he wasn't worth the dirt, only ash, how she said she made sure there was nothing left of him to get his filthy demon hands on as she spat in Gerard's face.

Or maybe Frank's just bored and Gerard going over there would ruin everything. He spends most of the weekend not sleeping and pacing and chewing a fist-sized hole in the sleeve of Frank's sweater.

On Sunday night he ends up sitting down on the horsehair couch in the parlor for just a moment, just to rest, but he can't help the dreams that flood over him, that drown him completely in memories he's tried for two lifetimes to forget.

"I think - I think she might know."

"Don't be so paranoid, Gee."

"I saw her looking at us."

"Well if I wasn't doing this, what was there to see?"

Gerard gasps as Frank sucks on his neck and inches his hand further down below his waistband. He clings to Frank's back and fists his hands in the starched, stiff fabric, before yanking it so it becomes even more untucked. Frank huffs out a little laugh and rocks against his leg harder, biting down on his skin.

One of the horses in the stable below makes a loud noise and Gerard jerks and glances towards the still shut stable door.

"Shhhh," Frank says, hushing him, "I swear, you're more skittish than they are."

Gerard flushes a little. "I can't help it. You sure they're all asleep?"

"I'm sure," Frank says, pulling back a little but still keeping his hand where it is. "Besides, hardly any of them come out here but me anymore anyway."

It's hard to be afraid of Frank's mother, or to think about anyone's mother with Frank's hand still wiggling inside Gerard's pants, so after a moment of relative silence, he relaxes and kisses Frank again. "One day..." Gerard starts.

"I know," Frank says, wrapping his hand around Gerard's cock. "But for now..."

Gerard thinks the way his hips buck up out of the hay answers that question well enough.

Frank keeps talking to him, low and soothing, like he's trying to calm his horse Puck, but Gerard's certain he's never spoken to Puck quite like this. "One day I would like to do this in a bed, or maybe out by the pond, with you completely naked. I guess we could both be naked, but I want to see all of you, spread out for me, just me-"

Gerard groans and throws back his head and imagines that, imagines getting to see all of Frank, all at once, and he can feel his toes curling as he comes all over Frank's hand. He doesn't even stop to breathe before he's flipping Frank over and yanking at the buttons of his pants.

Frank laughs loudly and stretches out. There's hay already stuck in his hair and Gerard's pretty sure he looks no better. He could never look better.

Gerard strokes firmly and keeps his other hand pressed up against the bare skin of his back, but makes sure to pull back in time to watch Frank's face as he spills into Gerard's hand. He definitely could never look better. Ever.

Frank pants and rolls his head into the hay and hums happily. "C'mere," he says. Gerard climbs over him and leans down to capture his mouth in a kiss, pressing into the feel of Frank's fingers trapped in his hair.

He just relishes the moment for as long as he can, before the hay starts to itch and the worries from before come creeping back in. "I just don't like the way she looks at me sometimes," he says softly.

Frank wraps his arms around him. "Gee, her face always looks like that. Now what were you saying earlier about this girl Mikey likes?"

Gerard sighs, but accepts the change in subject. It's not like he wants to spend his time with Frank thinking about things that make him unhappy. "Her name is Alicia, she's human and lives in town with her parents, he doesn't want anyone finding out in case they decide Mikey needs to change her."

Frank nods, rustling the hay around his head. "Good idea. They're just so…so obsessed, sometimes." He curls up against Gerard, then, wrapping his arm tighter across his chest. "My uncle was telling my mother the other day about how he heard that there are still some packs out west that can change at will. Can you imagine that? He said it's because we've gone soft out here, with all of the humans breeding in, but I don't know. I don't blame them. You should be with who you want."

Gerard's silent. The barn creaks and it's quiet except for their breathing and the occasional shuffle from the horses below.

Frank plays with one of the buttons on his half-closed shirt. His voice is hushed, barely above a whisper. "If I could change like that I don't think I'd ever come back."

Gerard can only run his hands gently through Frank's hair. "Me either."

*

Gerard is surprised to hear raised voices when he opens the door to his house. He hopes it doesn't interfere with the nap he's been planning practically since his shift at the paper started early that morning.

"Mikey, you know what this means, you have to understand-"

Gerard doesn't mean to interrupt, but everyone turns to look at him when he steps into the parlour. Everyone, including Alicia Simmons, who is standing defiantly next to Mikey, holding his hand. Oh. Oh dear.

"Gerard, please talk some sense into your brother, you know Sophia will never-"

"Ma," Gerard begins. The last thing he wants is to hear about what Sophia wants, or to have to speak a word against Mikey.

"I love your son," Alicia says over all of them.

Mikey looks at her and Gerard's never seen him look so happy in his entire life. The others are so wrong not to be able to see this.

Elena's leaning against the table with her arms folded across her chest in a tight motion. She's looking at Mikey's face, though, while his parents are looking away. She hasn't said a word.

Gerard's mom sits down in the chair and puts her head in her hands. Don gently rests his hand on the back of her neck. "Nobody doubts that, Alicia, but you have to realize that there are rules, and –"

"Mikey already told me. I know," she says, and squeezes Mikey's hand. Mikey hasn't looked away yet.

Donna raises her head. "You know? He told you? So, so you'll – "

Alicia shakes her head. "No. He loves me just the way I am. He doesn't want me to change."

The change she's talking about doesn't need any other explanation. Donna hangs her head again.

*

"Gerard," someone says, shaking his arm. "Gee, wake up."

Gerard mumbles blurrily and turns over, blinking his eyes at the light from the candle. "Mikey? What is it?"

Mikey's crouching by the side of his bed, the candle steady in his hands. He's still dressed in the clothes he wore that day, if only slightly more rumpled. He glances quickly at the door and then leans closer to Gerard.

"We're leaving."

Gerard sits up suddenly. "What? Who? Who's leaving?"

Mikey hushes him and lowers his voice even more. "Me and Alicia. We're eloping. Tomorrow night. She has family out West. We're getting out of here."

Gerard's stomach plummets. "Oh, Mikey," he says. He can't imagine living in this huge house without him, without him just down the hall.

Mikey grips his shoulder firmly. "You heard them earlier. We can't stay here or they're going to change her."

Gerard can barely swallow. His whole throat feels dry. Mikey's right.

Mikey rolls his eyes, then. "You're coming with us, Gerard. You hate it here more than we do. Come with us."

Gerard shakes his head. "I can't."

"You can. Please, Gerard."

"Mikey, I – I can't."

Mikey doesn't even blink. "Do you really think if you asked Frank he wouldn't say yes?"

Gerard's silent.

"Ask him, Gee. Elena approached me after the fight in the kitchen. She gave me enough money for us to make it. She – she knows we have to get out. She knows we can't stay here. We're leaving tomorrow night. All of us."

He moves to leave, then, but Gerard darts out and grabs his sleeve.

"We can use Frank's horses."

Mikey smiles, then, wide and brilliant. "Of course. I have to go, but we'll meet you at the stables tomorrow. Okay?"

Gerard can't breathe for a minute, but he manages a soft "okay" before Mikey disappears back into the dark hallway.

He lies back on his bed and stares up at the ceiling. They're leaving. They're all finally leaving. And they're never coming back. He can't help but smile, then, although he has to put a hand over his mouth to stifle the happy little noise that leaks out.

*

Gerard doesn't bother going to work the next morning. He just heads straight to the Ieros' barn where he knows Frank will be.

"Gerard!" Frank says when he sees him standing in the doorway. "I wasn't expecting you this morning. Did you want to go for a ride? I'm sure that Hermia would be happy to take you out."

"I- Actually I have some news to discuss with you, of a private nature," Gerard says softly.

Frank's relaxed demeanor falls away. "If you just accompany me to the tack room I'm sure we'll find whatever it is you need."

"Yes, excellent idea," Gerard says, following close behind him. Frank doesn't shut the door completely behind them, because that would certainly look suspicious, but he closes it as much as he dares. "What is it Gerard? Is everything all right?"

"It will be," Gerard says. "Mikey and Alicia are eloping, tonight. Mikey wants us to go with them."

Frank just stares at him. "Together?"

"All four of us," Gerard confirms. "I won't go if you don't-"

Frank all but launches himself at Gerard. "Of course, you fool. I'll have everything ready by tonight."

Gerard smiles into Frank's hair. "We'll meet here, at the barn. I might've volunteered a few of your horses for the task. We'll be going out west, Alicia has family and I thought you and I could perhaps share a house of our own and-"

"Yes, yes, yes," Frank says, practically vibrating in Gerard's arms. And Gerard knows he shouldn't, not here, but he has to kiss Frank or he thinks he might fly apart himself. They're getting out, they're getting away from here, from all of these people.

Frank clings to him eagerly, and Gerard is certain that they could fly away from this all if they just held each other like this for long enough.

But then there are footsteps out in the hall, and they have to step apart quickly.

"Frank, are you in here?" Sophia calls, pushing the door open. Her mouth hardens when she sees Gerard.

"Sorry, mother, I was just showing Gerard the new saddle I got for Puck," Frank says. His face is flushed and his shirt is rumpled. Gerard tries not to stare.

"I see."

"I should get going, busy day ahead. Goodbye Frank."

"For now," Frank says softly, and Gerard's heart flips.

"Ma'am," he says, scooting around her and out the door.

*

There's a storm coming. Normally Gerard loves the wind and the sound it makes as it howls through the trees but right now it's just making him more anxious than he already is, and he's already pretty damn anxious. He paces a little in front of the window and tries not to stare the sun out of the sky already. It's almost time.

"Gerard, calm down," Mikey says behind him. "We're almost ready."

Alicia's behind him, already dressed in her traveling clothes but her suitcase still open on the bed. "Mikey, hurry up and go grab supplies from the kitchen while I repack for more room."

Mikey nods and squeezes Gerard's arm on the way out. "It'll be okay, Gee."

Gerard can't nod back. "I think I'm going to head over there to help Frank get the horses ready." He can't sit still anymore. Their parents are out at a town meeting but should be back not too long after it gets dark. The timing has to be precise.

He grabs his bags and slings them over his shoulder before pressing a small kiss to Alicia's cheek. "I'll see you two in a little bit. We'll have everything ready."

*

The wind whips his hair into his face but he can't drop any of the bags to push it out of the way. It's okay. He's almost there. A few more steps and he's out of the path through the woods he always takes to the Iero's property, and he can see the stables. He wants to break out into a run right there, but.

Something's wrong. The door of the stable is unlatched and it creaks back and forth, weighty and swaying in the sharp wind. Frank's always incredibly careful about that sort of thing, especially with this kind of weather. Gerard approaches the stable quietly, trying to smell for anyone. There's no one but the horses. They're unsettled, too, way louder than they normally are.

He drops his bags by the outside of the door and carefully peers around, catching the loose door in his hand.

"Frank?" he calls out. The horses bray and kick but there's no answer. He creeps by the stalls, trying not to breathe, to think. Frank is nowhere. The stable looks just as it did when he left it earlier, but something's different, something's wrong.

Puck's in the last stall by the door, but he's half-crazed, braying and kicking the door, riling up on his back legs. The wood pounds and splinters, but Gerard doesn't know what to do, doesn't know how to calm him.

He peers out the opposite door of the stable towards the back of the huge, looming Iero house. There's not a single light on in the whole house. And – the back door is open, too, knocking back and forth against the jamb.

The wind kicks up, then, blowing into Gerard's face, and he can smell it, then, can smell the blood, can smell Frank's blood. He runs forward towards the house, not caring, and yanks open the back door and practically throws himself into the back kitchen. The kitchen's ripped apart. There are dishes smashed everywhere and chairs flipped and there's a streak of blood on the counter, leading off like it was slipping, and it's Frank's blood and Gerard wants to vomit, can barely feel his knees, can barely breathe.

Gerard follows the smell of Frank's blood on the wind, but the way it's whirling and whipping around means the source is harder to find. He tears through the woods, branches whipping at his face and stumbling on wet leaves, but he doesn't let them slow him down. He's focused so intently on the smell of Frank's blood and trying so hard not to get distracted with what he'll find when he finds Frank, that he doesn't notice the two people coming up behind him until they've knocked him to the ground.

"No!" Gerard shouts, twisting and kicking at them, but Frank's cousins are larger and stronger than he is and begin dragging him towards a clearing. Gerard can smell Frank there and more blood, and there are so many people, so many of Frank's family.

"Look who we found," Tony says.

"You," Sophia says, turning to glare at Gerard.

But Gerard isn't looking at her. He's looking at the body on the ground behind her. It's Frank. There's blood on his clothes and he's still, so still. Gerard stares at him, praying for him to move, twitch just a little or make any kind of sound.

Frank doesn't move.

"Look what you made me do," Sophia says, approaching Gerard and grabbing his chin, holding it facing Frank. Frank's body, because it's becoming increasingly clear that that isn't Frank anymore. "My only child and you ruined him."

"I didn't-" Gerard gasps, but she grips harder at his face until her fingernails are practically ripping his skin.

"You did. He said it, he said it was because of you, that he would never marry, never breed, never see anyone else because of you," she spits at him.

Gerard's face is throbbing and his tongue feels thick, choking him. He can't see Frank's face, just the slumped line of his back, and he looks so small crumpled there on the ground. Sophia lets go of his face with a shove but Gerard still doesn't turn away.

"The blood is weak enough!" she cries, standing back and addressing the circle of pack members standing around them. "We are God's true children, we cannot let anything tarnish it, cannot let anything sully what we have."

There are murmurs going around the circle and they all nod their heads. Gerard can't believe it. He can't believe what is happening. Frank's not moving.

"We have been chosen to walk the day and the night, to share both the light and the dark of God's plan," she yells, "and those who turn away must be turned away for good."

Gerard's face is wet and he doesn't know if it's from the blood on Sophia's hands or his own tears. He can't feel anything anymore.

Sophia turns back to him, advancing on him slowly. Tony's grip on his arms loosens and he falls to the ground, unable to support his weight. His hands sink in the slick mud around his knees.

"You'll never touch him again," she says, practically hissing, "We'll make sure of that. As you are not our blood we cannot take yours, but you are no longer part of this pack. Don't you ever look at us again." She spits in his face and turns away from him, turns back to her pack, turns back to the crumpled mess on the ground that used to be her son.

Gerard loses track of things after that. He sees them moving, converging around Frank's body, but when he blinks again they're gone. He crumbles in on himself, then, alone in the clearing, and cries so hard he feels something come loose from inside, until he feels hollow.

He can smell the smoke, the fire. He can smell it rising, but he keeps his eyes closed, barely even breathes, just keeps his filthy hands over his face.

He wishes they had killed him. It would have been easier than this, lying in the mud and trying not to think about what they did to Frank, what he's supposed to do without him.

It starts to rain, eventually, but Gerard doesn't notice. He doesn't move until he feels a hand touch his shoulder, and even then it's only a flinch.

"Gerard, thank God," Mikey says, his voice tight and worn. "We've been looking everywhere, where's Frank?"

The wracking sound that tears from Gerard's chest is his only response, but Mikey understands.

"Oh Gerard, I. Come on, lets get you home, get you dry." Gerard doesn't see the point, but it's easier to go along with Mikey and Alicia, who was waiting at the edge of the clearing.

*

"She's saying he was thrown from his horse," Mikey tells him, the anger creeping into his voice. "The funeral is tomorrow."

Elena's face is ashen, and she clutches at one of her old embroidered handkerchief in her hands. "My God," she says, her voice barely above a whisper.

Alicia wipes at her eyes but doesn't make a sound. Mikey squeezes her hand where they're clasped together over the table.

Gerard shudders, trying not to imagine Frank's body cold in a casket. But there's not going to be a body. Gerard's last memory of Frank is going to be him lying broken on the ground.

"We'll go then. We'll take Puck and Hermia and Sebastian."

Those are the first words Gerard has spoken since Mikey found him in the woods, but Mikey doesn't look surprised. He just nods. "Okay. Everything is still ready to go."

Gerard nods and clenches his hands into fists. Elena rests her hand on the back of his shoulder and presses so gently, so delicately, and Gerard tries not to break. "And everyone."

*

The Ieros' house is still empty but this time it's because they're all down at the town's church for the big funeral. It's supposed to be huge. The mayor, even, might stop by to offer his condolences. He's sure they'll sound sincere.

Gerard strides into the stable and unhooks the door to Puck's stall. Puck whinnies but comes closer, unafraid, and Gerard reaches up to stroke his face gently.

"No reason for you to stay, too," he murmurs, running his hands through his course mane. He can hear Mikey and Alicia working with the saddles and blankets for the other horses behind him. "Let's get out of here."

*

As they ride off out of the town, Mikey and Alicia in front and Gerard trailing behind, he can't help but look behind him as it all fades away. He doesn't look at the town, though, as it disappears around the bend, even though the ringing of the church bells is clear through the silence around them. He watches the woods. Their woods.

"Gerard?" Mikey calls.

Gerard turns back and realizes that he's fallen farther behind than he thought. He nudges Puck forward and concentrates on nothing but the feeling of the wind against his face.

When he gasps awake again it's bright enough to be mid-day. If Frank was in the car on the way to school, he missed it. God damn it. He just. He just can't sit in this big cold house forever. He just has to know.

He pulls his big naval peacoat (the one he got back in the 30's when he befriended that captain down at the bar, and the captain had seen in him someone who had to get out of that place or die, so he let him bum along on his ship on their route all the way down to Panama and back. Didn't even mind him locking himself in the ship's hold once a month. Gerard had been in the midst of some of his darkest years, there, but that's a bright spot he actually remembers) out of the hall closet and wraps a scarf around his neck and face and sets out. He just wants to see him. And not just a flash through the car window, he needs to see him flesh and blood and breathing. If he doesn't get the image of that ash pile on the back lot of the Ieros' land out of his brain, he's going to lose it.

He figures he'll get to the school and just hide away until the school lets out, and then watch Frank get into his mother's car and drive away, and then he will berate himself for being such an idiot and feel immensely relieved and then go home and paint and wait some more. Okay. Good. Plan.

But when he walks up, it's apparently just after lunch during their break in the day, and all of the kids are out milling about, separated from the rest of world by the school's huge wrought iron gates. Like a teenager zoo, or something. It's a mess of khaki and blue school blazers and red striped ties and oh man, this was such a bad idea. He starts to turn away, but right then he sees Frank.

Frank apparently saw him way before Gerard ever saw him, though, as he's already pressed up against the outside gate with his hands wrapped around the bars, staring at Gerard. He looks like those dogs Gerard sometimes sees in the pet shop when he goes to his favorite art store right over by the mall, the ones that just look so sad and lonely. Gerard just wants to take him home.

He can't do that, though, but he does divert his path back towards the gate. He can't not. There are a ton of people around (and Gerard's sure Frank's friends are probably staring) but. He has to.

"I just wanted to see if you were okay. You. You didn't come out this weekend," he says once he is close enough to Frank to speak quietly.

Frank leans his forehead against the gate and looks up at Gerard. He looks tired. "Grounded. Indefinitely."

Grounded is better than dead. Gerard can deal with grounded. "Okay. I don't want to get you in trouble more, so, uhm, I'm just gonna --" He starts to move away, but Frank reaches out and grabs onto his sleeve and pulls him back.

Gerard's terrified he's going to kiss him in public or something and everything will be ruined, but instead he just holds his sleeve for a moment, thumb running over the fabric, like he doesn't want to let go. Gerard aches to lean over and cup his face but that would be bad, bad, bad.

"Can you sneak out for the moon?" he asks instead.

Frank smiles a little. "I'll find a way. I'm already working on a bed sheet rope." Gerard can't tell if he's kidding, but he trusts he's got it figured out.

"Frank!" Gerard hears someone yell, probably one of his friends, and when Frank turns to look Gerard breaks away and walks quickly back towards his house. Going to the school was dumb, but he doesn't even care. Frank's okay. He's coming back. He can wait.

Grounded is better than dead.

***

Frank stays at the fence watching Gerard walk away until he finally rounds the corner. He wishes Gerard could have stayed longer, that he could have done something to get rid of that terrified gleam in Gerard's eyes.

"Dude," Ray says, once Frank finally comes back over to where he and Bob are sitting.

Frank shrugs.

"That was seriously Romeo and Juliet," Bob says. "But Claire Danes is hotter."

"Isn't that your weird neighbor?" Ray asks. "Isn't he like, almost 30 or something?"

"Or something," Frank agrees quickly. "He's just...I like him."

It feels so good to finally say so, even if that is sort of a lie, too, in the massive understatement sort of way.

"Is he the one you've been sneaking around with?" Ray looks back at the fence like Gerard is going to be hanging around. Frank looks, too.

"It wasn't like that at first, it was just like, the last week," he says.

"No wonder your mom is pissed," Bob says around a mouthful of Funyuns.

"Super pissed." Frank sighs. He sort of expected more of a reaction from them. He's not sure what the lack of reaction means. Did they guess about the queer thing? He's almost tempted to tell them about all of it, werewolves, reincarnation, gypsies, everything, just to see what would happen.

"So you can't come out with us, you can't go out with your boyfriend, what the hell did you do all weekend?" Bob asks.

"Gerard's not-" Frank starts to say, but Gerard kind of is his boyfriend, or it'll work for now. "Chores, and homework."

"Did you do the Trig worksheet?" Ray asks.

"Uh, yeah." Frank reaches for his backpack. "So like, you guys are cool with like-"

"The gay thing?" Bob says while Frank searches for the right words. "Dude, Ray thought you were scoring heroin down in Camden or some bad shit, this is way less likely to get you killed."

He wants to agree but the words die in his throat and he stays silent, unsettled. He bites his tongue and hands his math sheet to Ray.
*

Being grounded sucks. His mother is still watching him like a hawk, and he's so fucking bored. He comes home from school, does his homework, eats dinner with his mother while she asks him boring questions about all of his classes, and then spends the rest of the night reading or waiting until his mother turns the TV on downstairs so he can jerk off in the shower. The good news is that he's finally ahead in his schoolwork for the first time in his life (practically weeks ahead); the bad news is that he's pretty sure he's going to end up rubbing his dick raw. There's no way he was this horny before he was turned. And knowing Gerard's just waiting out of reach (probably wearing those stupid low slung jeans) across the street is not helping.

Gerard never shows back up at the school. Frank knows it's for the best (he really doesn't need anyone else to look at them suspiciously) but he can't help glancing up at the gates at the slightest movement for a chance of spotting that navy peacoat and messy black hair. He knows Bob and Ray catch him staring all the time but they, thankfully, don't mention it.

The rough cold snap that had been delayed for so long finally slams Jersey. There still isn't any heavy snow, just fluff, but it's freezing, bitterly, angrily cold. He's not as bothered by the cold as he was before he was turned, but he still hates this fucking weather. Frank sticks his gloved hands in his armpits and leans back against the passenger side window, breathing fog patterns on the glass. At least being grounded means he doesn't have to walk in this shit to school.

"Frank, don't lean on that window. It's cold," his mother fusses from the driver's seat. Frank knows she's on the look out for the little signs that signify the arrival of his semi-annual pneumonia or brutal chest cold or infection or whatever-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-him-this-time, but he hasn't so much as coughed in months. He probably shouldn't tell his mother to thank Gerard for that, though.

He sits back up in the seat and sighs. It's Friday and he can't wait for the weekend. The moon is the next night, and he's going to finally see Gerard, and maybe he'll be wearing those jeans or maybe those navy blue boxers or -- no, no, nope, not going to think about Gerard, nope. He's got the pre-moon itch eating him alive right now and the last thing he needs is to pop a boner in the car next to his mom. Later. Later. He can wait till later.

"Frank."

"Huh? What?" he says, blinking out of his daydream. Those jeans.

"Did you hear anything I just said?" The lines at the corners of her mouth are back. Shit. Honesty is probably the best policy.

"Uhm. Sorry. Not really." It's like she knows what he was thinking about, too, as her hands grip a little tighter on the steering wheel and she stares at the road ahead.

"I said that you need to make sure you get your teachers to sign your permission form for you to leave early today. I'm going to be picking you up right after lunch."

"Wait, what?" Frank says, sitting up straight in his seat. "Picking me up for what?"

His mother frowns. "Frank, I've already told you this a million times. We're going to your grandmother's for the weekend. I already have your bag packed, but there's a big blizzard coming through tonight and I don't want to get stuck driving in it, so we're leaving early. I told you to be packed! God, Frank -"

"What? That's this weekend? It can't be this weekend. I. It can't. I've got to. I. I've got -" Frank says frantically. No. This is bad. This is really bad.

"You've got what, kiddo? Big plans? The last time I checked you were still grounded," she says, frowning even harder.

Frank's got nothing. Fuck. Fuck. He shoves his hands back in his armpits and stares out the window at the wrought iron school gates that are fast approaching and tries not to panic.

Frank needs to talk to Gerard. He needs to see him, and not just because the closer the full moon gets the more he feels like he's going to crawl out of his skin. And, okay, if he saw Gerard, talking to him would probably be low on his list of things to do immediately. But he spends every day under the watchful eye of his mom or a bunch of nuns, so they'd get quite the show. Hypothetically. Because he can't get near Gerard. He hasn't shown up at Frank's school again, no matter how close to the fence Frank makes Ray and Bob sit.

He wonders if he could call Gerard from one of the payphones near the gym, but he doesn't know Gerard's phone number (what kind of guy doesn't know his boyfriend's number? Frank's pretty sure that's weird, but it never came up). When his history class takes a trip to the library, he eyes the computer, but Frank's pretty sure Gerard doesn't have a computer, let alone email.

As the afternoon gets closer and closer, Frank really starts freaking out. What if he accidentally eats his grandma? He'd be the worst vegetarian ever. He doesn't want to eat anything with a mom, and definitely not someone who gave birth to his mom. Oh god, what if he ate his mom?

"Frank?" Bob asks. "Are you having an asthma attack?"

"Where's your inhaler?" Ray's already reaching for Frank's backpack.

Frank waves them off. He's just hyperventilating a little. "I just need...can one of you get a note to Gerard?"

"Your boyfriend?" Ray asks, still holding on to Frank's bag.

"So long as it's not porn," Bob says.

"Well, fuck," Frank says, "I just really wanted to tell him how I wanted to suck his cock."

Ray and Bob both make a face at that, but Frank just rips a piece of paper out of his binder.

Mom's taking me to Grandma's this weekend. ALL WEEKEND!!! I don't know what to do.

love you
F

He folds the paper as small as he can and shoves it over to Bob. "If you can just get it to him ASAP. It's important."

Bob looks over his shoulder at the teacher. "Should I cut out of history, ASAP?"

"No, just like, after. Please."

"Yeah dude, sure."

***

When Gerard's doorbell rings that afternoon, he almost trips down the stairs in his rush to answer it. "Frank!"

But it's not Frank on the other side of the door; it's his two friends and they look a little nervous. "Uh, hey, Gerard, right?" the taller one asks.

"Is Frank okay?" Gerard asks, clinging to the door frame. "Did something happen?"

"He's fine," the other one says. "He practically had an asthma attack during class, and then asked us to give you this. He said it was important."

Gerard almost snatches the note out of the kid's hand and reads it quickly. "Oh, fuck."

"What? What's wrong, he didn't tell us what the emergency was."

"Do you know where his Grandma lives?" Gerard asks, skipping their questions.

"In Cloverhill somewhere, kind of out of the town," the one with the hair says.

"Do you have an address?" Gerard asks, plans starting to form in his head.

***

By the time his mom pulls up outside of the school that afternoon the grey, far too ominous clouds have crowded the sky and Frank can hardly breathe. He knows Bob and Ray will get the message to Gerard, he knows they'll follow through, but he still doesn't know what the fuck's going to happen after that. He pulls his coat tighter against the cold before he pushes through the glass doors of the school's office and down the front courtyard towards the pick-up area. Does Gerard even have a car? Fuck.

The drive to his grandmother's house is excruciating. Every bump in the road makes him want to rub one out on the seat and every question from his mother makes him want to bite her head off (please, god, please don't make him bite his mom's head off, please pleasepleasepleaseplease). The blizzard they were trying to avoid hits early, and the slush slows them down to a crawl. The drive out to the country takes almost twice as long as it normally would, and by the time they pull up off of the main road and onto the dirt back way that'll take them to his grandmother's house, he's about to claw his way through the upholstery.

"Frank," his mother says. She looks exhausted.

"What."

"Be nice to your grandma, okay? She's old. And, well, you know she's not the most open-minded person in the world, so if you maybe don't bring up -"

"Keep the fagginess on the down-low, awesome, I got it," Frank snaps. He just wants to curl up into a ball and cry and claw his skin off.

"Don't you dare use that shitty word, Frank. Ever. I was going to say that if you don't bring up being grounded, I won't bring up you being grounded, and she doesn't have to ask all of those obnoxious grandma questions, okay? Fucking hell."

Frank feels like an asshole. Well, he is an asshole, but he doesn't even have time to thank his mom for the small kindness (seriously, if his grandma latched onto the idea of him as something other than a perfect kid she'd nag him till the grave) before they're turning sharply into the gravel driveway. Frank silently takes his mother's bag out of the trunk and carries it along with his own as a little bit of inner penance.

Frank doesn't dislike his family. In fact, he really fucking loves them, but right now they're the last people in the whole world he wants to see. He clenches the handles of the overnight bags in his fists and trudges up the walk after his mom. There's already a pretty solid white sheet of snow covering the ground, although it melts in the footsteps he leaves behind.

His aunt is there, and his grandma, and he is poked and hugged and squeezed and fussed over by all of them until he can't take it anymore. He wriggles out of their grasp long enough to make an excuse about having to use the bathroom and makes a break for the one at the back end of the house, by his guest room, where he can barricade the door shut and just breathe for five fucking seconds. The bathmats are these awful pink fuzzy things she's had for as long as Frank can remember, and the tile is the same wretched mint green tile, and she's got a brand new toothbrush set out on the counter because she knows Frank always forgets to pack his. Fuck, he could kill everyone in this house. What is he going to do?

Gerard's not there, and it's terrible, and he can't believe he is so completely dependent on the idea of this guy in his life already, but after all of this shit he doesn't know how the hell he is going to do this alone. Gerard's not there. He's going to have to do this alone. Gerard's also not there to see him kneel down on the stupid shag bathmat and curl up for a second and shake a little with his face pressed to his knees and his hands in his hair, but he figures that he's allowed a little freak-out on the bathroom floor. He's had a stressful couple of months and he could possibly kill someone tomorrow and also he wants nothing more to just jack off about eight times in a row right now, but the bathmat smells like his grandma and that shit is just not happening.

***

By the time he throws every blanket and nonperishable food item he can find into the car, the roads are already covered with snow, but Gerard's Buick is from 1967 and built like a tank and moves slowly through it all. He smokes half a pack of cigarettes before he even gets off the interstate, and when he finally gets on the state roads, he needs both hands on the wheel.

It's a crawl to Cloverhill, and then Gerard has to start wrangling maps to figure out where Frank's grandma lives. It's way past dark out when he arrives, and that's fine. The moon isn't until the next day, and Gerard brought everything he needs to set up camp in the backseat. He has low expectations for the hospitality that would be extended by Frank's family. Besides, from his spot here he can make out Frank's shadow in a room in the upstairs of the house, and it almost makes up for the fact that Gerard can't go to him.

He just hopes the snow isn't higher than the car when he wakes up in the morning.

*
It's a near thing, but in the morning Gerard tests the door and manages to dig some space clear for him to get out. It's fucking cold out, but he's sweating in under his coat, even with hours to go before the moonrise.

Gerard isn't sure how much wiggle room he has with the whole stealing Frank away thing. He's got to get him away from the house and convince Ms. Iero not to follow him. The weather might actually be on his side as far as that goes.

He opens a can of Pringles and keeps watching the house.

***

Frank is going crazy. If he thought the day before the change was bad at school, it's worse with his mom, aunt and grandma. He's flushed and twitchy, and they all think he's getting sick, so they're fawning all over him, and Frank just needs to be alone. Alone with Gerard, who should be showing up any time now, really.

It's half an hour before sunset and Frank changes into the ratty clothes he brought along, even though his mom always likes him to look nice for dinner with Grandma. He won't be staying for dinner, not unless he wants to make Grandma dinner.

He does his best not to touch his dick as he pulls on the sweats even though he really, really wants to. He wants to be near a door in case he has to go out on his own. He's seen the weather outside. What if Gerard couldn't make it out? What if he got into a car accident or something? Frank has to be ready to run as far away from people as he can as fast as he can.

When there's a knock at the front door five minutes later, he almost cries with relief. Until he realizes his mom is going to beat him there.

"What are you doing here?" she hisses at Gerard though the crack in the door.

Frank winces, but Gerard's voice is firm as he replies, and Frank is soothed by it even as he wants to throw himself at him. "Please, ma'am, I need to see Frank immediately."

"Frank is grounded, and you won't be seeing him until he graduates."

Frank's actually happy to hear that it'll be that soon. He may be seventeen, but she owns him.

"Mrs. Iero, please, it's an emergency."

"Mom," Frank says from behind her, leaning to get a look at Gerard through the gap in the door. His mom still has the chain on, but he's trying to figure out if he can fit through without her taking it off. He just needs Gerard to hold him still for thirty seconds and he's sure it will all be okay.

"Frank."

"Frank has, uhm, an infection and-"

"An infection? Frank couldn't you at least have been safe?"

Oh god, Frank is going to die on his grandma's fake Persian rug. "Not that kind of infection, mom."

His back spasms at that point and he cries out. "Gerard."

"Ma'am, I really must insist," Gerard says, his hand reaching up to yank out the door chain.

"Linda? Is everything all right?" Grandma calls from the kitchen.

"Mom, please," Frank says.

His mom turns her head to call something out to his grandma, and in that split second Gerard's hand comes up in the crack and yanks and the chain rips out of the door. There's a cry of shock, but Frank can't even tell if it's from him or his mother or Gerard. Things are blurring and he can feel the bones in his spine starting to screech and bend, and it's just -- and then there's a hand on his arm, pulling him out of the house, and he goes.

Gerard's strong grip is keeping him up, but his foot spasms and catches on the bottom step, and he stumbles to the ground and snow. But then Gerard's there again, pulling him up and clasping their burning hands together before pulling him into a run with him, away from the house and the cars and his mother and aunt and grandmother standing on the front step, calling out, away from his mother following them down the steps and into the yard, and away until she has to stop because she can't seem them anymore in the snow.

"C'mon, Frank, c'mon, we have to go, we have to go," Gerard pants. They've been running through the snow, but it's so deep it feels like a crawl. Frank can't tell if Gerard's sweating or just covered in snow, but his hair and his shirt are soaked and he's breathing so hard it looks painful.

"Gerard--" he starts, but that's all he can get out before another spasm hits him and wrenches his hand out of Gerard's grip. Then he's down in the snow, writhing, burning, breaking apart and coming back together, and when he opens his eyes again the sun is down and everything is different.

There's no basement, and no door, and no lock, and nothing to stop him from doing what he was meant to do. Free, a part of him sings, free! And there's something else, too, a surging inside his chest, that says that he has to run, and run fast, and he can, and he is free. He deserves this, he was meant for this, and anything that gets in his way is wrong. There's something...something nagging at him to stop, to stay, but it doesn't matter. The scent of game and human and flesh is on the air and he wants to find it.

He takes off at a run through the woods. It's amazing. He's flying over the snow he's moving so fast. Gerard was wrong, keeping him locked up. This is what it's supposed to be. This. And the scent he had before is stronger now. There are three of them, up ahead, weak, weak and old, three humans. He knows they won't run --

And then he's down with a yelp. Gerard's there, his whole body crashing into Frank to knock him off his feet. Frank rolls over and attacks him with a snarl. This isn't play fighting. Gerard's trying to ruin this, to stop him, and Frank is fed up with that. Gerard is wrong, and Frank isn't going to let him get in the way. They circle one another growling and hissing, fur up and teeth bared.

Frank attacks again, a quick dash to the side before going for Gerard's leg, but Gerard's too fast. He counters, turns and comes back, and before Frank can right himself over his botched lunge, Gerard's over him with his jaws on Frank's snout. Frank yelps and pulls back, and Gerard's grip slips but the damage is done. Frank can feel the blood running from his face to his neck, matting in his fur and dropping to the snow, can taste it in the back of his throat. He snarls and lunges at Gerard again but his anger sets him off too fast and Gerard is there again, dodging and circling back to tackle Frank. He scratches a gash on Frank's leg and Frank goes down, and Gerard's there again, his fangs in a hold on the flesh of Frank's throat.

He's lost, he knows he's lost, but he can't help but buck up one more time to try and escape. Gerard clamps down, though, and it's not a playful nip. It burns, and Frank is done. He's lost. He's bleeding and there are humans just over that hill. He can smell their fear, heightened since the sounds of their fight no doubt reached their ears, and they're so close and Frank can't do a thing, can't taste that fear, can only smell it, can only smell the adrenaline coming off Gerard, the blood caked in the fur around his eye.

He's lost, and there's nothing for them to do except wait. Gerard stays poised, on edge, fur raised, teeth at his throat, and never lessens for a moment. Frank breathes and stays still and waits for the change, watches as the snow evaporates from the heat before it even touches their bodies. Hours to go and he feels every breath.

When the change is almost on them, Gerard rises to his feet, dragging Frank along with him. Frank wants to run. He knows how exhausted Gerard is, but he knows Gerard will chase him down, won't stop, won't let him go. He follows as best he can with Gerard's jaws to his throat and blood in his eye. They're heading back to the house on the other side of the hill and Frank tries not to breathe in the smells. It's impossible. He focuses on the shudders and snappings of the change riding through his bones instead, for as long as he can.

When he gasps again, it's a wavering, human noise, and he can feel the cold all through his soaking, shaking, bare skin.

Gerard's there immediately, cradling his head in his hands and thumbing away the sweat and blood on his face. "Are you okay? Frank, oh my god, I am so sorry-"

Frank just shakes his head and winces at the shock of pain. "It's okay. I'm okay." He leans into Gerard's touch until his forehead is pressed against Gerard's chest. His 'thank you' is hushed, but sincere, and he knows Gerard hears it.

"We have to get inside, Frank," he says softly, trying to avoid looking at the half healed gash across Frank's collarbone.

Frank nods, then grimaces. "I really don't want my grandma seeing us naked."

"My coat is in the car," Gerard says, teeth starting to chatter. "Come on."

"I really hope your keys weren't in your pants," Frank says, huffing a little laugh.

"Ha. No. Learned that one the hard way," Gerard says as he pops open the unlocked door. He grabs his coat for Frank and bundles him into it before pulling his bag out of the backseat. There's a shirt, an oversized sweater, and an extra pair of pants in there. He feels bad going back to the house in clothes while Frank's just in his coat, but he's pretty sure whatever fallout is about to happen would be ten times worse if they both showed up naked.

Frank shivers and pulls the coat tighter around himself as Gerard fumbles quickly into the clothes. He slams the car door shut and moves to take Frank's hand to lead him up the path, but at the noise, the front door to the house swings open.

"Mom!" Frank says, turning towards the noise.

His mother, exhausted-looking and pale, pauses only a moment before running down the stairs and taking Frank into her arms. Gerard shoves his hands into his pockets and tries not to look too guilty.

"Frank! Oh my God, Frank, are you okay? I called the cops but they said that since you were a runaway they couldn't start looking for you for at least twenty-four hours and oh my God, you're freezing, where are your clothes, oh my God, baby," she rambles, finally pulling back enough to let him breathe, "I just-"

She stares.

"What happened to your face?" she says shrilly.

Frank reaches his hand up to his face and comes away covered with flecks of dried blood. He can't really feel anything in any of his body parts right now, but he's pretty sure there must still be gashes from the fight last night that haven't had time to heal.

"Oh. Uhm. That. Well. I-" he starts.

"You son of a bitch!" His mom cries out, moving past him to advance on Gerard. "What did you do to him?"

Gerard blanches. "Uh."

The sound of her backhanding him across the face is especially loud in the exaggerated silence of the woods. Frank just gapes. Gerard looks equally as shocked, if a bit off-balance and well-smacked, but Frank's mother still looks furious.

"Mom." Frank says, grabbing her arm and pulling her back. "Mom, stop, stop, it's not-"

"I told you, I told you not to touch him again, how dare you hurt my son-" she cries, moving towards Gerard again. Gerard just stares at her, hand on the flush mark she left on his cheek.

"Mom."

She freezes with her hand still in the air and looks at him. There's just. There's just nothing to say. Frank's standing in the snow wearing nothing but someone else's coat and gash marks after disappearing all night into the woods with an older stranger who is fully dressed and doesn't have a mark on him. It's going to be the end of them, Frank knows, unless he does something.

"Frank, don't, you don't know-" she starts, but Frank cuts her off, still pulling her back from Gerard.

"No, I do, you don't, mom, mom. I want to tell you. I want to tell you what's going on, okay? I'm. I'm going to tell you."

She pauses at that to stare at him.

"I'm going to tell you, okay? Let's just go inside."

She shoots a glare at Gerard, who, to his credit, only cowers a little.

"Gerard has to come too, mom."

"Frank-"

"I'm not leaving him," Frank says, moving away from her to slip his hand into Gerard's. It's her choice now. Both or neither. Maybe forever.

There's a bit of pause as Frank's mother stares at Gerard, sizing him up. Frank squeezes his hand, but Gerard is either too frozen or too scared to squeeze back.

"Fine," she sighs. "Fine. Inside. Both of you."

***

They move inside but hover awkwardly in the foyer. Gerard is absolutely terrified of his mother and can barely look at her. His eyes fall to Frank's bare feet on the hardwood floor. "Frank, you should probably-" put on more clothes "-change," Gerard says.

"Oh, yeah. Right. Uh." Frank heads for the stairs, but doesn't let go of Gerard's hand.

"Frank," his mom says.

Frank just clings harder to Gerard's hand. "We'll be right back."

She frowns, but they move up the stairs together anyway. They're totally silent as Frank throws on some clothes, and he's determined to cling back to Gerard's hand as soon as he possibly can. Gerard looks like he's about to fall apart, but Frank's pretty sure anything he said right now would go unheard anyway.

***

"So. Gerard," Frank's mom begins when they walk back down the stairs and into the kitchen. "Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself." Her arms are folded and tense like if she doesn't she'll lash out at him again.

"Er." Gerard rubs at his eye. He really needs a cigarette.

"He's an artist," Frank says, speaking up.

"Thank you, Frank, but I'm sure he can speak for himself. What do you do for a living?" she says tersely.

"Oh, um. I'm an artist. Professionally. I sell paintings and things."

"And you do well enough to pay for rent on that big house?"

"There isn't any," Gerard says. "I own it."

He can't tell what her look means, or what questions she'll start asking next, so he's really glad that Frank's there next to him holding his hand. Gerard still feels like he's about to walk in front of a firing squad, but at least he's not alone.

Linda leans forward, then, the lines of her body tense. "Now I want to know the other things, the reason, Frank, that you're sneaking out, the reason we shouldn't be calling the police on him right now, the reason I shouldn't have him thrown away."
"...He's. It's not. It's not like that. He never, uhm, he never -" Frank starts, a little weakly. It's harder to say the unbelievable things out loud when there's nothing but his mother's eyes boring into him in disbelief.

"Don't say he never, I saw. I saw what he did, don't tell me he never--" his mother starts, her voice raising.

"Ma'am, I-" Gerard says, trying desperately to think of something to say that won't make things worse, "I'm not. I'm not some...child molester, or whatever you think, I'm not."

"Then what are you?" she snaps.

"He's a werewolf," Frank says. His voice is calm.

"What-"

"And I'm a werewolf too."

"Frank, that's not funny, I don't know why you would even think that could be funny at a time like this - "

"It's true."

"Of course it's not true. What do you think, Frank, is he telling you to say these things-"

"Mom," Frank barks, effectively silencing her. She freezes in her place but her hands are still balled up into fists.

"Mom. Mom. It's true. It's true. You think I would lie about this? I can't. I can't lie about this. He's a werewolf, and he accidentally bit me a few months ago. He didn't mean it, it was an accident, but. That's why I've been sneaking out every month. He makes sure I don't do anything to hurt anybody. And. And if he hadn't come here last night and taken me away, I might have hurt you too. All of you. He's. He keeps me safe," he says all in a rush. Gerard can hear how close he is to panting, and he rubs his thumb over Frank's knuckles in silent reassurance.

His mom is silent. She's staring at Frank like she's just waiting for him to say it's all a joke, like he was just kidding, it's just some normal teenage rebellion thing, it's not what it seems. But suddenly her face slackens, just for a moment, and she takes a few steps toward Frank. As she raises her hand Gerard's first instinct is to pull them both away (his cheek still smarts from earlier, god damn), but instead she simply runs her fingers around his face, pushes his messy hair out of the way, runs her thumb over the skin beneath his eye.

It's a little odd. She looks fascinated and a little lost, and it's then that Gerard realizes that the huge gashes Frank had on his face earlier are gone, without even a mark. There's no way they could have healed so fast without something else in play, and it's in that moment when Gerard realizes that they've got her on their side.

"Mom," Frank says, and the tone of it makes Gerard's chest ache, but not for long. Linda pulls her son into a tight hug.

Frank hugs her back with one arm, but doesn't let go of Gerard's hand.

"Oh my god," she says, pulling back from the hug. She cups Frank's cheek in her hand again, stroking his face with her thumb. "I don't understand," she says, shaking her head a little. "But, I just - Frank."

"It's okay, ma, it's okay –"

"Are you, I mean, is this – are you sick, does it make you sick?" she asks, and she looks paler than he even normally does.

Frank shakes his head back and forth but keeps his voice clear. "No, no, it's actually – I mean, I haven't been sick since it happened. At all. Not even a cough, ma."

Her hand stops moving. "Really?"

"Really.

She just sort of gapes at him, then, and looks from him to Gerard, but Gerard's pretty sure he's still doing his best impression of a completely non-helpful statue. Frank squeezes his hand, though, and Gerard knows this is his cue.

"Uhm. Ms. Iero, I know you probably have some, ah, some questions, so if I can help –" he manages, and he's actually pretty proud his voice only wavers a little.

Ms. Iero nods, obviously still completely overwhelmed, but they manage to lead her over to the living room to sit down properly.

She has a few more questions than Frank does - her horror movie background isn't quite as thorough as his - but she mostly seems concerned with her son's health and well-being.

"Right around the moon he might get a little -" Gerard pauses and tries not to think of Frank writhing on the basement floor beneath him. "- uhm, antsy, and the day after we're a little tired, but nothing too bad."

"Yeah, ma, even if I take one day off a month for the rest of the year I might have a shot at not having to go to summer school after graduation," Frank offers, blatantly pushing the education angle.

"But what do you do? Do you just run around the neighborhood? Frank, you-" she says, paling again.

Gerard shakes his head. "No, no, I have a safe place. In, ah, in my basement."

She just sort of blinks at him. "In your basement."

He tries not to cough and swallow his tongue. "Yes. I've been using it for years and there's never been any sort of problem. I swear."

Linda raises her hand to press her palm against the side of her cheek. "My god."

Frank rubs her arm reassuringly but can't seem to stop himself from breaking into a huge yawn which Linda echoes almost immediately.

It's then that Gerard realizes she's wearing the same clothes she was yesterday afternoon, and notices the dark circles under her eyes. She stayed up all night waiting for Frank. Frank's aunt and grandma must still be asleep, but she waited up the whole night. He knows he should be tired, too, and expects he will be as soon as the adrenaline from this confrontation clears his system.

"You two should probably get some sleep," Gerard says.

"You, too," Frank says, stepping back towards him. "You're not driving home in this. Not on no sleep."

"I'll be fine," Gerard disagrees. He doesn't want to overstay his welcome or give her a chance to remember and protest the other half of Frank and Gerard's relationship.

"No, stay," Linda interrupts. "We'll make up the couch."

Somehow Frank manages to look thrilled and exasperated at the same time. "Mom, that couch is terrible for sleeping on."

"If you think I'm letting you two-"

"We're at grandma's," Frank insists. Gerard wants to die, just a little.

Linda looks at Frank for a long moment, and then at Gerard. "The door stays open."

"Deal," Frank says quickly, and moves towards the stairs. He stops, and releases Gerard's hand for a minute and hugs his mom again. "I love you."

"Love you, too, Frankie."

Gerard lets Frank lead him up the stairs. He's still a little shocked. He'd known that Frank's mom wasn't the same woman, she didn't look a thing like that woman back then, but he'd still worried. Especially after she'd shown up at his house.

"You'll be borrowing my sweatpants, this time," Frank says, pushing the door open.

"I-okay," Gerard says.

"What's wrong?" Frank asks, turning to him.

"Nothing! Really, just. Your mom. I wasn't expecting."

"She's bought like, fourteen 'So your kid is LGBT...' books," Frank says. "I think she just doesn't like that you look twenty-five. Uh, we'll tell her how old you really are later. When we're not at grandma's."

"Okay." Gerard nods.

"Okay," Frank echoes, leaning in to kiss Gerard quickly.

Frank lets go of Gerard's hand only long enough to rummage in his bag for an extra pair of sweatpants and tosses them in his direction. There are holes in the waistband, and they look smaller than what he'd usually wear, but they're worn and they smell like Frank and Gerard isn't going to complain.

He turns around quickly as soon as Frank starts fumbling with the zipper of the hoodie he put on earlier. There are still faint marks from last night on his collarbone and it twists something unpleasant in Gerard's gut. He strips off his sweater quickly and changes into the sweatpants, kicking his jeans behind him. When he turns around Frank's already in pajamas (similarly ratty sweats and a big t-shirt from a college Gerard's never heard of) and he's holding Gerard's sweater in his hands.

"What?" Gerard asks. "Is it that ugly?" It's warped and ratty and it might have been black at one point but it's mostly a mottled gray. Gerard's never really had a head for fashion - why pay attention to anything that changes so quickly while he stays in the same place - so it's probably embarrassingly terrible.

"How long have you had this thing?" Frank smiles a little.

"Forever, probably." It's probably true. He can't even remember. "I know, it's not very --"

"It's perfect." Frank pulls it over his head, rumpling his hair and making it stick up even more than before. If it was big on Gerard then Frank's practically swimming in it. It's easy to forget how small Frank really is when he's so much of everything to Gerard.

Frank slips his hand back into Gerard's, the sleeve of the sweater falling almost to the tip of his fingers. His hands are still freezing. Gerard feels another pang when he remembers the sight of Frank's bare feet in the snow.

"C'mon." Frank smiles. "I think I could sleep for a week."

They curl up together in the bed, Gerard pressed against Frank's back, Frank's cold feet tucked in-between his calves, their hands pressed together against Frank's chest. Frank sort of snuffles a bit before settling down and dropping quickly off to sleep. Gerard can't help but run his thumb quietly over the ridges of Frank's knuckles, can't resist quietly pressing a kiss to the back of Frank's neck.

The last time they slept like this was...well, it was a long time ago. Frank was a little older, and not as loud, and he had more freckles on the back of his neck. He had dropped off quickly then, too, safe in Gerard's arms, but Gerard had stayed awake the whole night, just waiting for the sounds of footsteps that would show up any moment to catch them (even with a locked door in between them). Frank never knew how he stayed awake every time, all night, watching, waiting, barely breathing.

Gerard's thoughts are halted when Frank mumbles something and rolls over a little, cracking his eyes open a little to gaze blearily up at Gerard.

"Whassamatter?" Frank says, frowning a little.

"Nothing. Go back to sleep," he whispers.

"Liar."

"I'm not lying."

"Liar. You're thinking too loud."

"That doesn't even make sense. Go back to sleep. I'm sorry I woke you up."

Frank leans up a little to press a quick kiss against Gerard's lips. "I'll sleep if you sleep."

"What? That's -"

"A deal? Awesome." Frank grins when Gerard just rolls his eyes.

"Fine."

"Good." Frank turns back around and wiggles back into their original position. Gerard can still hear his uneven breathing which betrays the fact that he's still awake, waiting for Gerard to drop off, but before Gerard can comment, he falls asleep himself, his cheek still pressed against the back of Frank's neck.

***

"Frankie," a voice says. "Honey, wake up."

Frank stretches his legs, bumping against someone else's, Gerard's, because he's playing the big spoon and holding Frank close. Frank can feel Gerard's breath in his hair, and his mom is standing over them. "Mom?"

"It's almost noon," she says, like that is in any way relevant. "The plows just came by and we made breakfast."

As soon as she says the word, he can smell the aromas of food wafting up from the kitchen, and his stomach responds with a loud growl.

His mom smiles at him. "I thought so."

It's a little weird, having his mom talk about breakfast when Frank is in bed with his boyfriend or whatever, but if she's not gonna act like anything strange is going on, neither is he.

"Hmmrm?" Gerard mumbles into Frank's hair, starting to stir. He pulls himself even closer to Frank and Frank's chest feels warm and floaty, and he just wants to turn over and kiss Gerard until he wakes up for real. But his mom is standing right there, and he thinks he hears his grandmother talking to his aunt downstairs.

"Gee, Mom made food," Frank says, squeezing Gerard's forearm.

"There's plenty," she says.

Gerard comes awake with a start and moves away so fast, Frank worries he's going to fall off the bed. "Um. Hi."

"Good morning." Frank's not sure, but he thinks his mom might be trying not to laugh at Gerard. "I'll see you two downstairs in five."

"Okay, mom," Frank says.

Gerard looks like a startled chipmunk, sitting up against the headboard, and Frank has to give his mom props, because he lets out a little giggle. "Relax, Gee."

"I wasn't expecting..."

"I know, but she was cool about it. She's not going to string you up, I promise."

A strange look flits across Gerard's face before he blinks it away. "You said there was food?"

*

After they stuff themselves on food, and Gerard drinks an entire pot of coffee, they head outside to dig Gerard's car out and clear the driveway for Frank's mom's car.

"I think my grandpa used to have a car like this," Frank says. "A big, green whale."

Gerard shrugs. "Probably, all the cars were huge back then. Mikey gave this to me when he and Alicia bought a new one."

Gerard has that far off look in his eye, the one he gets whenever he talks about his brother, and Frank isn't sure if he should ask about him, or just change the subject.

"I would have taken the Trans-Am, too," Gerard continues, "but one of their grandkids took it out to California."

Frank shoveled some snow back onto the sidewalk. "So we know that car isn't sitting under four inches of snow."

"It's probably in a junkyard somewhere. I think that was 1983 or so."

"Oh." Frank goes back to shoveling. He wasn't even alive then.

"Sorry," Gerard says from the other side of the car. "I don't want you to feel weird about -" he waves his hand.

"It's not that," Frank says. "You've just, you've seen so much and I'm still in high school, and I just." He feels stupid for saying it. He shouldn't give Gerard any ideas.

Gerard drops his ice scraper and moves around the car. "Frankie, I don't care how old you are. A lot has happened in the past ninety years, but I want to spend the next ninety with you."

He takes Frank's hands and squeezes them. It's hard to feel through the gloves and mittens, but it makes Frank feel better just the same.

"Frank!" His mother sticks her head out of the door and looks down at them, only briefly glancing at their clasped hands. "You about ready to go?"

"Yeah, just a second."

She nods and then pulls back inside, shutting the door behind her.

"I'll come over later tonight, if that's cool?" Frank says, taking a moment to brush at some of the snow that's still caught up in Gerard's hair (and, funnily, his eyebrows). "I think my mom and I need to work some shit out first."

"That's going to be a fun car ride home, hm."

"Oh, yeah, awesome. Don't be surprised if you get a bunch of phone calls asking about your criminal history or any sexually transmitted diseases --"

"Just a couple dozen, I promise, all completely incurable and terribly itchy."

"Oh well, thank goodness for that, I mean, just being a werewolf would be boring, much cooler to be a werewolf with syphilis," Frank says as he rolls his eyes. Gerard laughs loud and bright, and he pulls on Frank's scarf to draw him in for a kiss.

*

The ride back to town is remarkably easier than the ride up, even if it's maybe more awkward. Frank's never been good with heart-to-hearts with his mom. They've always just sort of been there for each other, and, well. Surprising your mom with a new werewolf boyfriend is something you usually have to talk about. He can't help but fidget in his seat.

"So," she starts, crinkling her nose a little to keep her sunglasses up on her nose. "You're a werewolf and you're...dating a twenty five year old werewolf."

Frank doesn't think it's really the time to bring up how old Gerard actually is, so he just nods.

"He won't. He can't hurt you? I mean, really hurt you."

 

"He's been a werewolf his whole life, it doesn't bother him like it does me. He can control himself during the moon. I...can't. Last night. Uhm, last night when I ran away, I was so scared of hurting you guys-"

"Frank-"

"No, listen. And I almost did. Mom, seriously, I was nuts. If he hadn't been there to stop me I don't know what I would have done." He stares at his hands while he picks at his fingernails. There's still a lot of dirt under them from last night.

His mom is silent for a long moment. "So he watches out for you?"

"Yeah. For a while now." He wants to tell her exactly how much, how long, but he bites his tongue. He doesn't want to talk about that other mother.

His mom smiles a little, just at the corners of her mouth, like she's trying to hide it from Frank. "Well I'm glad to hear it. You know, you'll be graduating sooner than you know it and then Rutger's." She sighs and Frank worries she might start tearing up and talking about when he was a tiny baby, but she continues. "You'll be an adult and you'll make your own choices, I just want you to make good ones."

"Gerard's a good choice."

"But was playing with a wolf?"

"Point," Frank says. She had been forgiving of that part of the story and he hopes that continues. "But hey, it's not like I can be turned into a werewolf again."

She laughs at that and reaches over to put her hand on the top of his head and his cheek, before settling on the back of his neck for a moment, just resting. Frank keeps looking ahead but he leans a little into the touch. Yeah. They're going to be okay.

When they drive down their street, Frank tries his best to be casual as he checks to see if Gerard's car is in the driveway. It's not, but there are tire treads leading to the garage.

When he glances at his mom, her mouth is doing a weird twisting thing. It's not angry though, and she's keeping her eyes straight ahead.

Frank helps bring in the food grandma sent them home with and leans casually against the counter. "So can I go over to Gerard's for a while?"

It's weird, asking for permission to go see his boyfriend, but his mom just says, "Be home by nine."

Normally, he would protest a stupidly early curfew like that, but he's just so damn glad she said yes he doesn't care. "Okay," he agrees quickly, dashing off to the mudroom for his coat.

"And tell him I want him to come over for dinner on Wednesday."

Frank freezes with his hand on the door knob. "Really?" He's not so sure he likes this idea. Wasn't today bad enough?

"Yes, Frank. I want to get to know him if he's going to be hanging around."

"Uh, okay. Bye mom, love you!" Frank yells, racing out the door before she has any other weird ideas.

The snow crunches under his feet the whole way to Gerard's house, and Frank sorta slips on the steps up to his door, but he catches himself on the railing. He didn't think he made that much noise, but Gerard opens the door just as Frank raises his fist to knock.

"I didn't think you'd be over tonight," Gerard says, ushering Frank inside and helping him take off his coat.

"I have to be back by nine, but, whatever," Frank says.

Gerard's just smiling at him, and Frank's face kind of hurts even though he wasn't outside long enough for it to go numb and thaw. Gerard grabs his hand and hisses when he feels how cold it is, but he doesn't let go. He covers the back of Frank's hand with his other hand. "What did you do, stop to build a snowman without gloves on?"

"No, I just-" Frank doesn't feel like rehashing his smooth moves on the steps, and they've only got like, three hours, so he pulls Gerard in close enough that Frank can cover Gerard's mouth with his.

He wonders if Gerard was sitting by the fire or something, because he's so warm. Frank does his best to steal it all for himself by pressing every inch of himself against Gerard.

Gerard makes a garbled sort of noise when Frank sneaks his hands up under his shirt to press them against his warm skin. Instead of pulling away he pushes closer to Frank, bringing his hands up to rest on Frank's face. It feels awesome on Frank's cold skin.

Gerard pulls back a bit, his eyes wide. "What did your mom say? Did she -"

Frank leans in to capture his mouth again before Gerard can start freaking out and asking all those Gerard-freaking-out-questions. Also he really does not want to talk about his mom when he's got his tongue in Gerard's mouth and the beginnings of an erection pressed against Gerard's thigh. Later.

Gerard pulls back again. He rubs his thumb under Frank's eye. "Frank, I need, I need to know if she's -"

Frank slips his hands around from Gerard's back to start working at his buckle. "Later." The belt comes out and Frank tosses it to the ground. "Bed, now."

Gerard looks like he's about to protest again, but Frank manages to slide his hand beneath the waistband of his jeans to rub against his dick, and his freak-out questions mostly come out as a weird high noise. Frank considers it a victory.

"Dude, you've got a really hot dick."

Gerard's laugh is huge and sharp. "Thanks."

"No, I mean - Oh, fuck you, okay, your weirdo werewolf body temperature is crazy."

"No, no, don't backtrack now, your dirty talk is totally winning me over. Just like your freezing hands," Gerard says.

"I can stop, you know. Anytime."

Gerard laughs again and leans in to kiss Frank, only breaking apart to pull Frank's layers up over his head. They manage to make it to the bedroom eventually, although Frank's pretty sure they knocked a few really expensive and really old paintings off the wall along the way.

Gerard's knees hit the mattress and he flops onto his back, pulling Frank on top of him by his belt loops. Frank scoots up his hips under they're squared hip to hip, denim to denim. He's about to lean down to kiss Gerard again when he's caught by the sight of a little painting hanging above Gerard's bed.

It's not framed or anything, just a little watercolor sketch that looks torn out of a notebook. There are ink smudges and some fingerprints around the edges, but Frank can still tell that it's the same basic picture as the little picture Gerard gave Frank that day in his studio. The skeleton of Frank's piece, same hollow moon, same shadows of the trees.

"What's the matter?" Gerard asks, craning his neck to see why Frank stopped.

"It's - it's nothing. Is that the first sketch of that picture you gave me?" Frank asks, finally breaking his stare to look back down at Gerard.

"Yeah, why? Would you like it?"

"No, it's just. Was that from Before?"

Gerard's hands freeze on Frank's hips. "Sort of. The woods behind our part of the town were really pretty, really isolated. We...went there, sometimes. And you. We thought it was a safe spot."

Something in Gerard's voice makes it obvious it wasn't. Frank leans down until his forearms are on the mattress, his hands in Gerard's hair.

"Look, Gee, I've been thinking. I...I still don't remember anything. And if I was going to, I would have by now, right? I mean, I'm a werewolf, you're a werewolf, we've had werewolf boyfriend sex, you passed the mom test, mostly, you love me even though I don't remember and I love you even though I don't remember, and...maybe that's okay."

Gerard's mouth crooks up in the corner. "So I did pass the mom test?"

"Gee," Frank says, tugging his hair a little, "not the point. I just...maybe I'm not supposed to remember. Maybe that's part of the gift, you know? You waited so long for me, and, and I'm here, now, I'm here, and I don't have to remember that other mom or being shunned or hated or hiding or, or running away or, or dying. I got a clean slate, and you get one too."

Gerard's got this look on his face, again, like it's the first time he's seen Frank in a hundred years and he still can't believe it. It's a heavy thing, to be the cause of that, and Frank still can't really deal with how it sits in his chest. Instead he leans down, smiling, and kisses him again.

***

Gerard is still trying to wrap his mind around everything Frank has said since he showed up, apparently with full parental permission. It's going to be different this time. Better, because no one is going to hurt them. He tries to remember if he's ever been this relaxed while this close to Frank, and he knows he hasn't. It would have been impossible Before, and last time there were just too many unknowns, but now, now he has Frank half naked on a bed and no one is going to interrupt them.

Gerard presses up against Frank and wraps his knees around Frank's before rolling him to the side and onto his back. Gerard wants to look at him, really look at him.

"Gerard," Frank says, squirming underneath him. "Come on."

He can feel Frank's erection under his thigh, so he knows he won't be able to just look for too long. "Just give me a minute, Frankie," Gerard says, leaning forward to place his hands on Frank's chest, feeling the tension there. Gerard watches the way his hands move over Frank's skin, but when he glances up to see if Frank is watching, too, Frank's staring at Gerard. There is a whole lot of look coming from Frank, and Gerard's heart clenches even as he has to lean forward to get more friction on his dick.

"Gerard," Frank says again, his voice taking on a hint of desperation. "We don't have all night."

Gerard slides his hands up Frank's chest to where his thumbs can brush over Frank's nipples. Frank's hips jerk up at the contact, and he keeps rubbing himself against Gerard, and Gerard is done with the looking.

"Frank, can I. Would you mind if-"

"Anything," Frank pants.

Gerard leans forward to kiss him again, because he has to, when Frank says things like that. He also slides down a bit, so he's straddling Frank's thighs instead of his hips so he can reach Frank's belt and zipper.

"Yes, please, yes," Frank says against Gerard's mouth. "Yours, too. You've still got your fucking shirt on."

"Well, maybe you should do something about -" Gerard starts, but Frank's already got his hands around the hem of his shirt and is yanking it up. Gerard bends with the motion and helps to pull it over his head, emerging shirtless and rumpled.

Frank leans back a little and grins. "I like your hair."

Gerard grins back. "Thanks."

Frank threads his hands into Gerard's hair and pulls him back down into another kiss. Gerard tries his best to work at Frank's belt and zipper without breaking away, but it's impossible with Frank's rather distracting tongue in his mouth and his fingernails scratching lines up and down his scalp. He groans and breaks away, pressing his forehead to Frank's as he watches his hands fumble at Frank's zipper. Frank whines and tries to press closer but lifts his hips to help.

Gerard finally gets them open and down, shifting back and away to yank his jeans and boxers down to Frank's thighs. He crawls backwards off the bed, running his hands down Frank's thighs and calves as he moves. He wraps his hand around Frank's ankle and squeezes, then pulls Frank's shoes off, followed by his socks. He grabs the hem of his jeans and yanks until his pants are completely off, then reaches up to pull at Frank's boxers until they're sliding off his calves and ankles to join the rest of his clothes in a crumpled heap on the floor.

Gerard looks up, then, at Frank. He's just laid out on the bed, legs spread, erection straining against his stomach. His chest is flushed and he's panting, his arms above his head and hands wrapped around the old antique wooden headboard of Gerard's bed.

Gerard has to pause for a second. Again. He can't help it. It's just - God, Frank's so fucking beautiful and he's been waiting years and years and years for this, to see him like this, to see all of him like this. He's just spread out in front of him in his own bed and Gerard can have him. He can barely remember to breathe.

"Gee," Frank pants, pressing his feet into the bedspread and raising his hips.

Gerard nods quickly and half-jumps back on the bed, sliding up Frank's thighs and wrapping around him for another kiss.

He pulls back again and Frank groans. "Gerard," he pants, "Seriously, you're gonna - "

Gerard cuts him off by sitting back and slowly running his hand down over his chest, then stomach, then down to his cock. Frank inhales sharply.

"Hey, hey, you -" he starts, but Gerard hushes him and slides farther away from him, trailing his fingers down the skin of his hips and over the bone. "Where are you going?"

Frank drops a hand from the headboard to thread through Gerard's hair. Gerard just grins and ducks his head. "I want to try something."

It's an understatement, really. Gerard's been desperate to try this ever since Frank did it to him a few weeks ago. He'd heard of the act of course. There were few sex acts you didn't learn about when spending time aboard a ship at sea. He'd just never imagined Frank doing it so quickly and so easily. Until he did, that is.

Gerard had spent the intervening weeks imagining doing this to Frank, but in his imagination, he hadn't been quite so aware of how overwhelming it would be in reality, to have Frank spread out before him. Gerard just wants to touch him everywhere and he isn't sure where to start.

Frank has a few ideas, though, as he lifts his hips and tries to point Gerard's head towards his dick. "Gerard," he whines.

Gerard can take an unsubtle hint, and wraps a hand around Frank's cock, loosely at first, but when Frank pushes into the touch, he tightens his fist and begins moving it slowly. This part is familiar enough, even if his memories of doing it to Frank are as old as the sketch above the bed. There's already fluid leaking out of the tip of Frank's cock and saliva starts pooling in Gerard's mouth.

He glances back up to Frank's face. His cheeks are flushed and he's breathing heavily, but his eyes are zeroed in on Gerard, tracking his every move. Gerard returns his gaze to Frank's erection and takes a deep breath before finally lowering his head to take the tip into his mouth. Frank's grip on his hair tightens at the first contact, but relaxes again a moment later.

It's sort of awkward, really. Gerard really can't go down that deep without his throat tightening, but he's still got his hand working at the base of Frank's cock, moving it up and down with the slightly uneven rhythm of his head. Frank really doesn't seem to mind, judging from the sounds he's making, and when his hands leave Gerard's hair, he glances up to see that Frank's gripping onto the bars of his headboard, his neck arched back, eyes clamped shut.

It's fantastic. Gerard ducks again, going farther, pumping faster, and runs his tongue along the bottom of his cock all the way up to the head. Frank moans and his hips buck and Gerard has to pull back off his cock to avoid being choked. Frank whines, then, like it's almost painful, and Gerard has to grind his own hips down into the mattress to get some friction on his own dick before he lowers his head again.

He's just starting to think he's got the hang of this whole thing when Frank starts moaning faster and his back starts arching off the bed, his feet scrambling at the bedsheets.

"Fuck, I'm -" he gasps. It's too late of a warning and Gerard barely has time to blink before Frank's coming in his mouth. He pulls off, but he can taste some of it in his mouth, feel it on his chin.

He swallows and looks up at Frank, a little stunned.

Frank laughs. His hair is stuck up at all angles and his grin is sloppy and bright and his chest is flushed. Gerard is still stunned. "I'm sorry. I tried to warn you."

"I don't think you're sorry at all," Gerard says, running his hands up Frank's thighs and pulling himself back up on the bed.

Frank grins and rubs lazily on his nose. "Nope. Not a bad look for you."

"Is that so?" Gerard says, crawling up his body until he's straddling his hips, his hands braced on either side of Frank's head.

"Yup."

Gerard inches his face closer until they're only a breath apart. "Really?"

"Yes," Frank says, quietly.

Gerard kisses him, slow and deep, and Frank opens his mouth and brings his hands up to fist in Gerard's hair. When Gerard pulls back there's a smudge of come on the side of Frank's mouth.

"Huh, I guess you're right. It's a pretty good look for you too."

Frank blinks and reaches up to wipe at the side of his mouth. "You're gross."

Gerard grins. "And you love it."

Frank pushes at him, then, and they roll on the bed until Frank's on top, smiling down at Gerard. "Yup."

He's aware of the fact that his erection is digging into Frank's thigh, and wouldn't say no to more friction, but he doesn't feel the need to rush. His own desire for release is tempered by the satisfaction and relaxation in every line of Frank's body. Gerard's whole chest feels full but light at the same time, and he lifts his head to capture Frank's mouth again.

Frank leans down, pushing Gerard back into the mattress and pressing against him with his whole body. They kiss, slow and lazy, until Gerard starts pushing up against Frank with more intent than before.

Frank pulls back to look down at Gerard, and he can't help the undignified whine. "Do you want-"

"No," Gerard says, tangling his fingers in Frank's hair. "Just, I want it like this." He wants Frank right here with him, not even willing to let him go far enough away to fit a hand between them, or slide down to use his mouth.

Frank's smiling at him again, and Gerard can't remember the last time he was this happy. He tugs at Frank's hair, drawing their mouths together, and now Frank is rubbing against Gerard in earnest. The heat between them has generated enough sweat that Gerard's dick slides easily against Frank's hip.

Gerard can feel Frank everywhere, but it takes him a minute or two to realize Frank's cock is pushing in to Gerard's thigh. Christ, to be seventeen again.

Gerard places both hands on Frank's ass (what there is of it, anyway) and maneuvers them until their cocks are aligned, pressing against each other with every rock of their hips. He has to stop kissing Frank then. He can't get enough air otherwise, and Frank buries his face in Gerard's neck, where Gerard can feel every pant of his breath warm and wet against his skin.

"Frank, Frankie," Gerard says, losing all sense of rhythm as he ruts against Frank one last time before his motor control abandons him completely and he comes between them.

Frank, however, just moans into Gerard's ear without missing a beat, until he comes too and collapses on top of Gerard.

They just stay like that for a while, breathing deep as the sweat cools on their skin. Gerard is warm everywhere Frank is, but he can see goosebumps rising up on his arm, and he can only imagine how Frank is, completely exposed to the air. He tries to grab a blanket off the floor, but can't quite reach it.

"Mmm, I got it," Frank says, leaning over the side of the bed. He makes a face when he realizes what else has been cooling between them. "Do you have like a towel?"

Gerard fumbles around on the bed, and comes up with a ratty sock.

"Totally gross," Frank repeats, but it doesn't stop him from wiping them both clean and tossing it back to the floor before wrapping the blanket around them.

"What time do you have to be home?" Gerard asks softly.

"Mm, won't turn into a pumpkin for another hour," Frank says, burrowing against Gerard. "And then I'll come by tomorrow, after school."

"Okay," Gerard says, wrapping his arms tightly around Frank's back. "Sounds good."

He forces Frank up and out of bed half an hour later, completely unwilling to even push the curfew a minute. Plus, they seem to get a little distracted as they get dressed again.

"You really don't have to," Frank says, pulling on his shirt.

"I want to," Gerard says, watching as Frank gathers up the rest of his clothes.

"You know it's cold out there, right?"

"I won't freeze to death walking you home, Frankie."

Frank laughs then, and Gerard can't imagine ever feeling cold again.

They walk back to Frank's house in silence but keep their hands clasped together. Gerard can't help but keep turning to look at Frank, to watch his breaths turn to visible clouds in the cold night air. He squeezes his hand and Frank squeezes back.

They kiss by the front door until the last possible second, and when they pull apart Frank's face is flushed. He rests his hand on the front doorknob but hesitates.

"You know my mom is sitting like right inside the living room, right?" he says, grinning a little.

"Yep."

Frank smiles. "She wants you to come over for dinner on Wednesday, too. Is that okay?"

Gerard whole body hums, but it's not a bad feeling. For once. "Okay."

"Okay." He pushes open the front door a little and calls inside, "Just a second, ma."

"Tell Gerard I said hello," she calls back from her place in the living room. "And close the door before you let all the heat out."

Frank nods and leans back quickly to plant a light kiss on Gerard's lips.

"Goodbye, Frank," Gerard says quietly.

"For now," Frank says, grinning a little slyly and shutting the door behind him.

Gerard stands there in the light from the front porch and just basks in the feeling, lets the warmth rush over him and pool in every bit of his body. For now. Until he sees him again. Because he will. He will see him again. He almost has to bend in half he's so overwhelmed with gratitude, with relief, with sheer fucking joy.

Instead he shoves his hands in his pockets and hops off the last step of the porch, singing an old song under his breath until he gets to his house. After all these years, finally, to his home.

 

(THE END)

 

Story Art by theopteryx